Wetlander's Pick of the PostsWatch how Louisiana’s coastline has vanished over the last 80 years

By Brad Plumer – Vox – August 30, 2014
Over the last 80 years, Louisiana has lost nearly 2,000 square miles of coastland — land that has simply vanished into the Gulf of Mexico. And much, much more land is likely to disappear in the years ahead unless major changes are made. For full story, click here.

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Salameanderby Peg Bostwick, ASWM

This photo of the Grand River flowing through downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan was taken from my hotel room window last week, while attending the Michigan Wetlands Association Conference – New Directions in Wetland
Protection and Management.
Imagine this beautiful urban
pegsal95141setting made even more so by restoration of historic river rapids through the city. That is the plan described by Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell in his address to the opening plenary. Mayor Heartwell is known for progressive thinking on land and water management, and also spoke enthusiastically about green infrastructure, climate change adaptation, and stormwater management in the city and surrounding area, along with art, education and the lively nature of the downtown area. The Mayor also stressed the importance of wetland protection as a critical component of flood control plans. It is inspiring to hear this message coming FROM local government.
pegsal95142The August 27-29 conference brought together a very diverse group of about 57 speakers and equally diverse attendees. Here are a few tidbits from the breakout sessions that I was able to attend, addressing an array of issues including climate change, wetland restoration, and Great Lakes protection and management.

• On climate change: Anne Garwood of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) outlined a climate change strategy for coastal wetlands, developed as a component of the state’s Coastal Management Program §309 strategy for 2012-2016. This strategy builds on and implements recommendations previously developed by the DEQ in cooperation with ASWM. Click here to review the white

pegsal95143paper authored by ASWM for the DEQ.

• Multiple speakers noted the recent microsystis contamination of Toledo’s drinking water supply from Lake Erie, and the relationship between this crisis and climate change.˜

pegsal95144Recent flooding in Detroit was also raised as an instance of the more extreme weather that has been predicted. The role of wetlands in water quality protection and water management was noted.

Tinka Hyde – head of Water Division at EPA Region 5 – explained that under the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, phosphorus loading targets and allocations will be established for each country by 2016. Multiple related recommendations outline approaches to achieving target phosphorus levels for each of the Great Lakes.

˜• Kurt Kowalski of the Great Lakes Sciences Center reported that the soils of Great Lakes coastal wetlands store more carbon than most North American soils. Something to think about.

Kurt also displayed a fascinating digital elevation model image of the Great Lakes clearly showing low-lying areas of the state, and making it easy to believe that Michigan was once about 30% wetland. It is also easy to see where to focus wetland restoration efforts. Matt Cooper of Notre Dame – a team member in the Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Monitoring Project – noted that data being gathered by that consortium will also be useful in supporting restoration decisions.

• Businessman and former gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos spoke at the opening plenary about “Project Clarity” – a coordinated effort to improve the quality of Lake Macatawa through watershed management, including wetland restoration. The terminology is different – Mr DeVos spoke of the importance of “return on investment” rather than “ecological outcomes” but the goals were the
pegsal95145same. This ambitious project has a budget of almost $12 million, and a 5 year project period. For more information and a video presentation, click here.

• ˜On Farm Bill programs and wetland restoration: Brandon Fewins, representing Sen. Debbie Stabenow (who was in Africa during the conference) reported on Farm Bill programs, and in particular on the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program. This program streamlines four previous Farm Bill programs, and will provide significant funding for watershed projects, particularly in designated priority conservation areas. Click here for more information from USDA.

Brandon also discussed new “swampbuster” provisions which continue to require conservation compliance, but an appeals provision and an opportunity to come into compliance within 1 year after appeals before losing financial support.

The Wetland Reserve Program is now wrapped into the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. Rulemaking is underway.
pegsal95146• Our Ducks Unlimited partners reported on accomplishments in Michigan to date, including conservation of over 72,000 acres in Michigan, with funding of more than $31 million. Go Ducks!

• Doug Marcy of the NOAA Great Lakes Science Center reported that the jury is still out on the predicted impact of climate change on Great Lakes water levels. Current levels are up significantly after a winter of ice cover (which reduces evaporation) and high precipitation. Models are showing that in the future, there could be a more limited reduction in water levels than previously feared, or even a modest increase in water levels. Doug also demonstrated NOAA’s new on-line viewer showing the impact of changes in Great Lakes water levels. This tool will help coastal communities and others plan for land and water management. It should be available “soon” – watch for it. When released, the viewer will be posted at osc.noaa.gov/llv.

Another climate change note: ongoing studies at the University of Wisconsin on acidification of the Great Lakes indicate that acidification of the Lakes may be an even greater impact than on ocean waters. I’m sure we will be hearing more on this.
pegsal95147• MWA board member Dave Mifsud of Herpetological Resource and Management provided an overview of the herp Best Management Practices manual developed for Michigan. This is a great tool to incorporate measures for protection of reptiles and amphibians in a wide range of other construction or resource management measures. These practical and very doable recommendations range from how high the grass is cut and when to conduct controlled burns, to recommended shoreline structures and road construction practices. It is not available in print (unless you would like to donate for printing – which would really excite Dave) – but can be downloaded here at no cost.

• ˜On the MDEQ wetlands program: DEQ staff including Director Dan Wyant spoke of the importance of the state-assumed 404 permit program, and discussed the state’s ongoing coordination with EPA in identifying changes needed to maintain the program at the state level. Changes in federal regulations present a particular challenge to states attempting to maintain federal consistency.
pegsal95149Overall, conference presentations time and again focused on collaboration, cooperation and community or watershed-wide approaches. Applied science and interagency cooperation were the reported norm. Perhaps because of this, the overall mood was confident, forward looking and pragmatic even in the face of multiple challenges to wetland managers. All in all, this was a rewarding conference, with many more presentations than I could attend or note here. You can review the presentations as they are posted (soon) on MWA’s conference page: click here and watch for them!

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Wetlander's Pick of the PostsMapping the Truth

By Tom Reynolds – EPA Connect – August 28, 2014
Since releasing our proposal in March to better protect clean water there have been some questions raised in the press, most recently about maps that use data developed by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Fish & Wildlife Service and show locations and flow patterns of many of the nation’s waterways. For full blog post click here

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View from the blog-o-sphereWetlands and the rise of ‘blue carbon’ 

By Dick Kempka – Portland Business Journal – August 28, 2014
In many ways, the preservation of wetlands — transitional areas between terrestrial and aquatic environments —i s vital to human existence, yet methods to preserve these valuable ecosystems are young and in many cases, still being developed. In many ways, the preservation of wetlands — transitional areas between terrestrial and aquatic environments —is vital to human existence, yet methods to preserve these valuable ecosystems are young and in many cases, still being developed. In fact, more than one-third of the U.S. federally listed endangered species rely directly, or indirectly, on wetlands for survival. For full blog post, click here.

 

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by Brenda Zollitsch

Well it’s that time of year again – good old “back to school” time. With that fleeting “new lunchbox” smell and spiral notebooks still unbent, the coming school year represents a new beginning, sononbus1brimming with promise. My kids and I have spent our free time this summer taking walks, hiking, paddling, learning and observing in wetlands. Is that all over now that it is time to return to school? Not a chance!

In celebration of the new semester, I thought I would share with you some resources to help kids stay connected with wetlands throughout the school year. And for those of you adult learners who feel like learning about wetlands this fall, I include some fun learning opportunities for you too!

If you are looking to integrate the study of wetlands into school curriculum:

  • Project WET works with children, parents, teachers and community members to deliver water education that promotes awareness of water and empowers community action to solve complex water issues. Their offerings include water resource education materials, training workshops, provide assistance in developing water festivals, and experiential learning projects that lead to sustainable solutions on community water resource issues.
  • National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA Program combines effective “green” management of the school grounds, the facilities and the curriculum through school-based action teams of students, administrators, educators and community volunteers. Their focus is on providing students with a unique, research and application based learning experience.
  • Our Wetlands, Our World provides information and activities to help high school students learn about the importance of wetlands and to become involved in the restoration of these valuable, unique environments. It also helps bring State Content Standards to life by linking science concepts to local resources. The focus of the guide is on Upper Newport Bay in Orange County; however, much of the information is applicable to other wetland sites.
  • Teachers can also work with local wetland centers and grantors to develop independent wetland learning projects, like the Growing Wetlands in the Classroom project by Lynnhaven River NOW and the Elizabeth River Project working with local schools. With creativity, good science, planning – the sky’s the limit!

If you want to create a more individual wetland connection for your own children, a youth group or homeschoolers, opportunities abound:

  • Watch and talk with your kids about online wetland science videos. A great example is Bill Nye the Science Guy’s “Wetlands” video on YouTube and use these discussion questions to think more about it.
  • school2Visit a wetland. Wetlands are everywhere! Ask a local nature organization or check out a state map to find one near you. We like to visit both wetland trails and centers that include interpretive exhibits, information and programs. Great choices include wetlands at Audubon sites and National Estuarine Reserves.

If you find yourself in the mood to go back to “school” this fall to learn some more about wetlands, we encourage you to enroll in wetland-related courses at a local university, through a professional certification program or just dabble in the following offerings:

  • Sign-up for the Wetlands Training Institute’sWetland E-Sessions on wetlands delineations, regulatory policy, nationwide permits, and jurisdiction determinations.

school3

  • And stay tuned! The Association of State Wetland Managers (ASWM) is going to be piloting a variety of new ASWM online training offerings on wetland topics in the not so distant future!

However you chose to connect, wetland education and activities abound both this fall and year-round. And yes, it’s back to school time – with opportunities for wetlands to be front and center!

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Wetlander's Pick of the PostsCalifornia water rights: You can’t manage what you don’t measure

By Ted Grantham and Joshua Viers – UC David Center for Watershed Sciences – California Water Blog – August 20, 2014
California water experts have long known the amount of surface water granted by water rights far exceeds the state’s average supplies. Historically, the over-allocation has not raised much concern; in most years, there has been enough runoff of rain and snowmelt to go around. But circumstances are changing. California is suffering the third driest year in a century and demands for water are at an all-time high. The huge gap between allocations and natural flows — coupled with great uncertainty over water-rights holders’ actual usage — is increasingly creating conflicts between water users and confusion for water managers trying to figure out whose supplies should be curtailed during a drought. For full blog post, click here.

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View from the blog-o-sphereTropical testate amoebae as hydrological indicators?

International Society for Testate Amoeba Research – July 30, 2014
Testate amoebae have been successfully used as indicators of past changes in peatland hydrology, particularly ombrotrophic (i.e., nutrients derived exclusively from precipitation) peatlands of north-temperate and boreal regions.  Over the past couple decades, many ecological studies of testate amoebae have been performed in these northern bogs, allowing empirical relationships between community composition and surface moisture to be described. Because the shells of testate amoebae preserve well in the acidic and anaerobic environment of bogs, these modern relationships have been used to infer past changes in the relative wetness of the bog surface from the composition of subfossil communities.  Much recent work has focused on the validation and interpretation of testate amoeba paleohydrological records from bogs, and their application to pressing global change questions.
For full blog post, click here.

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By Marla J. Stelk, Policy Analyst, ASWM

I have experienced first-hand the losing battle with invasive species. It’s a battle I fight every year just trying to stop the advancement of Asiatic Bittersweet which is killing almost every tree in the wooded area behind our back yard. I have seen the devastation that invasive species can wreck on  marlablog822141habitats, flora and fauna so it’s not a subject I take lightly. But in my efforts to understand the issues and practices involved in addressing the issue of invasive species, I continually find myself at odds with the overwhelmingly prevalent practice of rapid eradication – particularly with methods that employ toxic chemicals such as glyphosate or the introduction of new exotic species.

In trying to explain my consternation, my mind constantly evokes the analogy of those annoying pharmaceutical commercials that promise to alleviate suffering from specific ailments by taking this or that new drug. But wait, you may also experience this barrage of side effects such as blurred vision, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, feelings of suicide, hair loss, skin lesions, cancer, stroke, internal bleeding, infertility, etc., etc., etc. – are you really willing to take these risks just to alleviate one condition? I suppose it depends on the level of your suffering, but nevertheless, the “solution” doesn’t come without significant trade-offs. And do these “solutions” really address the underlying causes of suffering?

Similarly in regard to invasive species management, have we really done our due diligence to research the potential short term and long term side effects of our current management strategies for eradicating invasive species? For example, do we really know the long-term implications of the widespread use of glyphosate in wetlands? Some studies indicate that glyphosate may pose a threat to human health (including celiac disease and gluten intolerance) and certain species of frogs. What happens when the soils, flora or fauna reach a tipping point in the amount that they can bioaccumulate? Are our “solutions” really addressing the root causes of why invasive species have proliferated? And have we really done due diligence to study these species, learn about them and learn from them – in other words, have we fully considered what hidden benefits these species may be offering in our panic to eradicate them?

blogmarla822142For example, in the American southwest, Tamarix has spread rapidly and has been targeted as an invasive species. Tamarix is a native tree-shrub that was intentionally introduced into the U.S. from Eurasia. Its deep root system, tolerance for saline conditions, and prolific seed production has made it extremely adaptive to riparian areas of the America West where water tables have dropped and water flows and spring floods have decreased. According to a 2008 article in Restoration Ecology, Tamarix is viewed by many as a key factor in the decline of riparian habitats because its establishment occurred concurrently with the decline of those ecosystems. Invasive species in general are seen as a threat to biodiversity. We should be fair, however, and consider a more logical theory that the loss of biodiversity is not the fault of invasive species – they are simply taking advantage of the stage we have set. It’s widely known that invasive species proliferate in areas altered by human activity.

It has been discovered in certain places, that Tamarix actually provides critical habitat for birds, among others, the Yellow-billed Cuckoo whose western population is a candidate for federal endangered species status due to riparian habitat loss. The Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, a federally listed endangered species, breeds in both native (willow) and exotic (Tamarix) habitat types and research by Owen et al. conclude that “there was no indication that birds breeding in Tamarix were suffering negative physiological effects compared to those in native habitats.” (Sogge, Sferra & Paxton, p. 149) This is not to imply that Tamarix is somehow superior or even equal in ecological value to native riparian vegetation. However, the case can be made that it provides an important ecosystem benefit in the absence of suitable habitat for previously existing native vegetation that, for a variety of reasons, may or may not be able to reestablish itself.
marlablog822143

Our most recent “solution” to eradicate Tamarix is to introduce the exotic Tamarix beetle. The beetle was imported from Kazakhstan and has an incredible appetite for the Tamarix tree/shrub. However, it is not site specific. This means that it does not discriminate between Tamarix living in areas where it does not offer habitat or ecosystem benefits and Tamarix that is providing critical habitat for threatened or endangered species. What happens when we rapidly eradicate Tamarix without giving sufficient time for willow to reestablish itself? According to Sogge, Sferra and Paxton, Tamarix “can fulfill an important habitat role for some species, especially in areas where degraded riparian systems preclude the establishment of native vegetation.” (Sogge, Sferra & Paxton, p. 150) In fact, they go on to point out that “cuckoos have all but disappeared in the lower Pecos valley from Six-Mile Dam near Carlsbad to the border of Texas following a large-scale Tamarix removal project from 1999 through 2006.”

Invasive species are successional – they take advantage of landscapes that humans have altered and/or degraded and are incredibly adaptive. They survive and flourish where the “native” species cannot. I suggest that in an age of climate change and the recognized need to develop more resilient and adaptive communities and land management practices that we may have a lot to learn from invasive species and a lot to gain by considering them as a component in a more site specific management strategy. Certainly, in many cases they can be too much of a good thing, but in other cases they are providing really important successional and ecosystem benefits. To label them as “invasive” feels unjust and overly subjective. We would be better served by managing them within a more holistic restoration framework for land management that works within a more natural long-term time frame.

And speaking of long-term time frames, we have many species that exist in North America that are widely embraced by society which were originally exotics introduced from abroad such as pheasants, earthworms and honeybees. Pheasants came from western Asia to Europe and then to America. About 33% of U.S. earthworms came over from Europe and 100% of honeybees came over from Europe. Should we stop protecting and restoring pheasant habitat? Should we eradicate all earthworms from our soils? How about honeybees? We have most certainly come to rely on their pollination benefits.

marlablog822144What happens when species move to follow the shift of their habitats due to climate change? If mangroves move into Georgia and South Carolina will we attempt to exterminate them with glyphosate if they displace other species who cannot relocate? And let’s consider Quaking Aspens – a huge tourist attraction out West. Quaking Aspens are the first successional species to repopulate forested areas after a major forest fire. Their relatively short life span allows them “to decompose and put nutrients back into the forest floor more often than other trees.” (Weiber) In fact, according to a recent article, even though they are invasive, they are considered a “keystone species” because they help to maintain local biodiversity. What is displacing them? The conifers and junipers that were there before the aspens.

As expressed in a publication by Dr. Jack Dekker, “The concept of ‘invasive species’ has broader social, economic and political implications, emphasizing the differences in how humans perceive weedy and colonizing species.” (p. 73) He goes on to say “Human perception of what is natural and indigenous, what is disturbed and artificial, is therefore compromised to some degree. In one form or another, willingly or not, the earth is the garden of humanity. The equivocal nature of what harm is caused by invasive species is therefore confounded by the heterogeneous array of human viewpoints and aesthetic values of what is desirable in landscapes. This heterogeneity of opinion is not resolvable but remains at the core of invasion biology because values guide activity and management. For better or worse, the actualization of human values creates opportunity space for new species to invade: they are a direct reflection of human activity.” (p.79)

marlablog822145Indeed, the human species has promoted greater homogeneity year after year – particularly when it comes to agriculture – one of the greatest land modifiers. One of the biggest drivers of homogeneity has been through monoculture farming practices and a market system which favors economies of scale. Driven by profits, we can make more money by reducing per unit costs of production. We all know it costs less per unit to produce a dozen of the same apples than it costs to produce one of many varieties. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the world has over 50,000 edible plants. Just three of them, rice, maize and wheat, provide 60 percent of the world’s food energy intake – only a few hundred contribute significantly to food supplies. Just 15 crop plants provide 90 percent of the world’s food energy intake. And let me throw another wrench in this – what about hybrids and genetically modified organisms….

So how does one define “native” species? What are the boundaries (spatial and temporal) for those definitions? Does evolution preclude the concept of preservation? At what point do invasive species become native or do they? I am a fan of preservation and conservation and, as most folks do, I find change to be both exciting and terrifying at the same time. But for Peat’s Sake, rather than adopting eradication as the solution to the presence of an invasive species, let’s sit back, re-evaluate and consider the bigger picture.

References:

A Short History of Honeybees on Earth. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from Let it Bee Apiaries

Blakemore, R.J. (December, 2008). American earthworms (Oligochaeta) from north of the Rio Grande – a species checklist. Retrieved from Annelid Resources, Earthworm.

Buffin, D. and Jewell, T. (July, 2001). Health and environmental impacts of glyphosate: The implications of increased use of glyphosate in association with genetically modified crops. Friends of the Earth.

Dekker, J. (2009). The Evolutionary Ecology of Weeds and Invasive Plants. Retrieved online from Agronomy Department, Iowa State University

Lanctôt, C., Robertson, C., Navarro-Marti̒n, L., Edge, C., Melvin, S.D., Houlahan, J., Trudeau, V.L. (2013). Effects of the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup WeatherMax® on metamorphosis of wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) in natural wetlands. Aquatic Toxicology, 140-141; 48-57.

Owen, J.C., Sogge, M.K. & Kern, M.D. (2005). Habitat and Sex Differences in Physiological condition of Breeding Southwestern Willow Flycatchers (Empidonax Traillii Extimus). The Auk, 122(4):1261-1270.

Pheasant History, Ecology & Biology. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from Pheasants Forever website.

Reed, G. (April 30, 2013). New Review Points to Glyphosate’s Dangerous Health Effects. Food & Water Watch.

Samsel, A. and Seneff, S. (2013). Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance. Interdisciplinary Toxicology, 6(4): 159-184. SETOX & IEPT, SASc.

Sogge, M.K., Sferra, S.J. & Paxton, E.H. (March, 2008). Tamarix as Habitat for Birds: Implications for Riparian Restoration in the Southwestern United States. Restoration Ecology, 16(1): 146-154.

Staple foods: What do people eat? Retrieved August 22, 2014 online from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department Corporate Document Repository.

Weiber, A. (August 9, 2014). Aspen disappearing in the West. Retrieved online from Reno Gazette-Journal.

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Wetlander's Pick of the PostsHow Much do Coastal Ecosystems Protect People from Storms and What is It Worth?

By Meg Imholt – NOAA’s Office of Response & Restoration Blog – August 11, 2014
Nearly a year ago, one lawsuit spurred the question–how much do coastal ecosystems protect people from storms and what is that worth? It’s a question NOAA scientists and economists are working to answer. At NOAA, our job is to protect our coasts, but often, coastal ecosystems are the ones protecting us. When a severe storm hits, wetlands, sand dunes, reefs, and other coastal ecosystems can slow waves down, reducing their height and intensity, and prevent erosion. That means less storm surge, more stable shorelines, and more resilient coastal communities. For full blog post, click here.

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View from the blog-o-sphereThe Gowanus Canal: Ecology & Design Meet in Brooklyn’s Rust Belt

By Colleen Tuite – Great Ecology – July 25, 2014
Late one June afternoon, a motley crew of ecologists, molecular biologists, landscape architects, and a camera crew gathered in a vacant area of South Brooklyn’s salt storage lot. There, we donned Tyvek suits and boots, sorted empty glass jars and plastic hazmat bags, fastened life preservers, and launched canoes into the toxic waters of the Gowanus Canal. Originally a creek running through a saltwater marshland, industry began along the Gowanus in the mid-1600s, as mills were built there to take advantage of water power. In the 19th century, as industry grew the Gowanus Creek was dredged and the canal system constructed – a 1.8 mile waterway linking factories, warehouses, coal stores, and refineries to the Upper New York Bay. By World War I, the Gowanus was the busiest commercial canal in the country, and South Brooklyn a major for industrial production – and, simultaneously, industrial pollution. For full blog post,
click here.

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