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Temporary wetlands: Challenges and solutions to conserving a ‘disappearing’ ecosystem

December 29, 2016

Frequent drying of ponded water, and support of unique, highly specialized assemblages of often rare species, characterize temporary wetlands, such as vernal pools, gilgais, and prairie potholes. As small aquatic features embedded in a terrestrial landscape, temporary wetlands enhance biodiversity and provide aesthetic, biogeochemical, and hydrologic functions. Challenges to conserving temporary wetlands include the need to: (1) integrate freshwater and terrestrial biodiversity priorities; (2) conserve entire ‘pondscapes’ defined by connections to other aquatic and terrestrial systems; (3) maintain natural heterogeneity in environmental gradients across and within wetlands, especially gradients in hydroperiod; (4) address economic impact on landowners and developers; (5) act without complete inventories of these wetlands; and (6) work within limited or non-existent regulatory protections. Because temporary wetlands function as integral landscape components, not singly as isolated entities, their cumulative loss is ecologically detrimental yet not currently part of the conservation calculus. We highlight approaches that use strategies for conserving temporary wetlands in increasingly human-dominated landscapes that integrate top-down management and bottom-up collaborative approaches. Diverse conservation activities (including education, inventory, protection, sustainable management, and restoration) that reduce landowner and manager costs while achieving desired ecological objectives will have the greatest probability of success in meeting conservation goals.

Publication Year 2017
Title Temporary wetlands: Challenges and solutions to conserving a ‘disappearing’ ecosystem
DOI 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.11.024
Authors Aram J.K. Calhoun, David M. Mushet, Kathleen P. Bell, Dani Boix, James A. Fitzsimons, Francis Isselin-Nondedeu
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Biological Conservation
Index ID 70179334
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center