Wetland Science News

Ramsar focuses on Arctic wetlands

Ramsar – December 11, 2014

Arctic peatlands, glacier forelands, rivers, lakes, wet tundras, seashores and shallow bays make up the largest part of the Arctic (at least 60% of the surface) and constitute a significant part of the world’s wetlands and freshwater resources. Arctic wetlands store enormous amounts of carbon in frozen peat and soil, as long as the insulation by an undisturbed peat layer is preventing the underlying permafrost from melting. Accelerated climate change in the Arctic provokes rapid environmental change, easier access to oil and gas, minerals and fisheries, This threatens ecosystems through the retreat of sea ice, permafrost thawing, atmospheric warming, habitat fragmentation, de-synchronisation of predator-prey life cycles, overharvesting of wildlife and of globally migratory bird and mammal populations, and ocean acidification (factors highlighted in UNEP’s “view from the top” in 2013). For full story, click here.

Can biomimicry tackle our toughest water problems?

By Ben Goldfarb – High Country News – November 24, 2014

Kania has spent the last decade trying to correct that imbalance through biomimicry, the concept of imitating natural processes to address environmental problems. Kania believes there are few ailments that copying nature can’t heal. The dead zones that plague the world’s oceans? Kania has a solution. The disappearance of wetland habitat? There’s a fix. Insect-borne diseases? The common cure for all, he says, lies in Floating Island International’s signature technology: buoyant artificial wetlands, nearly 6,000 of which are now deployed worldwide, from New Zealand to South Africa to China. For full story, click here.

Deforestation not always bad news for wetlands

The University of Queensland News – November 17, 2014

Deforestation is both a boon and a bane for wetlands, according to new research by The University of Queensland. The study found that human impacts on the environment, such as deforestation, do not always have negative consequences, and can provide positive outcomes for biodiversity. Study author Dr Craig Woodward, from UQ’sSchool of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, said many wetlands of international importance were formed or expanded in response to human clearance of forests. “We found that deforestation can significantly increase the amount of water flowing into wetlands and can even create new wetlands,” he said. “In the past, wetland managers have focused mainly on how deforestation has increased catchment erosion and the transport of sediment and nutrients into wetlands. For full story, click here.

Report: Giant pool of silt looks scary, but it isn’t a major threat to the Chesapeake Bay

By Darryl Fears – The Washington Post – November 13, 2014

For years, scientists described a giant pool of sediment behind Maryland’s Conowingo Dam as a muddy boogeyman that threatened to turn the Chesapeake Bay’s blue waters into a creamy brown mess. But state and federal experts who steward the bay have abruptly changed course, saying that a two-year analysis released Thursday revealed that the sediment isn’t nearly as threatening to the bay’s water quality as first thought, and that spending up to $3 billion to remove it isn’t worth the cost. For full story, click here.

Eelgrass could save the planet

By Derrick Z. Jackson – The Boston Globe Opinion – November 9, 2014

Standing in a cove off Massachusett’s North Shore, Juliet Simpson holds a tube filled with some of the most precious mud in the world, mud that could have significant impact in the fight against climate change. But first, that mud needs to revolutionize how we think of sea grass. Simpson, a coastal ecologist at MIT’s Sea Grant program, is on the search for carbon, and in this particular mud sample, which came from a sea grass bed about eight feet below the water’s surface in Nahant Harbor, chances are she’ll find quite a bit. Sea grass, also called eelgrass, photosynthesizes carbon out of the water column and then stores, concentrates, and locks it into the soils beneath it. There, because there is little to no oxygen, bacteria can take centuries to millennia to break it down and to re-release it back into the water and atmosphere. For full story, click here.

31 species of migratory animals given UN protection

The Sydney Morning Herald – November 10, 2014

Polar bears, whales, sharks, rays and gazelles were among 31 new species granted new protection status by a UN conservation body, following six days of intense talks by leading conservationists in Quito, Ecuador. Protecting these animals is key for overall environmental conservation. For full story, click here.

Cranes crowd Staten Island as other Valley habitat dries up

By Edward Ortiz – The Sacramento Bee – November 7, 2014

Every fall and winter at sunset, the sky above Staten Island fills with majestic sandhill cranes alighting in the fields. The sight is more spectacular than usual this year, as the number of cranes wintering on the island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has doubled over the same time in 2013. Scientists say they’re not sure what’s causing the population boom but suspect the drought and a shift in what farmers are growing may be at its root. For full story, click here.