Association of State Wetland Managers - Protecting the Nation's Wetlands.

Guest Blog: May is American Wetlands Month

wetlands051917By Suzanne van Drunick, National Program Director, EPA’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources Program

This month we celebrate the vital importance of wetlands to our Nation’s ecological, economic, and social health.  Healthy, functional wetlands improve water quality, increase water storage and supply, reduce flooding and streambank erosion, support high biodiversity including commercially important fish and shellfish, offer recreational activities, and provide critical habitat for plants, fish, and wildlife. Wetlands occupy only about 5 percent of the contiguous U.S. land area, but are biological powerhouses.  About one third of threatened and endangered species live exclusively in wetlands, while another 20 percent depend on wetlands for some periods of time during their life, such as during migration or reproduction.

Our researchers are working to improve water quality for healthier wetlands, to assess and map the condition of wetlands across the Nation, and to develop tools to restore degraded wetlands. EPA research is also used to provide guidance on how communities can best respond to the growing number of emerging contaminants that threaten our water resources, including chemicals, pathogens and harmful algal blooms. EPA science is advancing knowledge on the critical role of wetland communities and habitats in improving water quality and reducing eutrophication in downstream waters.

051917wetOne recent tool our researchers developed is the Rapid Benefits Indicator (RBI) Approach tool. This tool is a simplified process that uses readily-available data to estimate and quantify benefits to people around an ecological restoration site. It provides a framework that can be used to compare potential wetland restoration scenarios based on these benefits without the need for estimating dollar values. This approach is important because it gives decision makers a way to compile information that indicates who is likely to benefit from restoring a certain site, and by how much. It provides detailed tradeoffs between the functions and benefits of each site when deciding to restore local wetlands. Download the Rapid Benefits Indicatory (RBI) Approach here.

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