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Geographically isolated wetlands: Rethinking a misnomer

January 30, 2015

We explore the category “geographically isolated wetlands” (GIWs; i.e., wetlands completely surrounded by uplands at the local scale) as used in the wetland sciences. As currently used, the GIW category (1) hampers scientific efforts by obscuring important hydrological and ecological differences among multiple wetland functional types, (2) aggregates wetlands in a manner not reflective of regulatory and management information needs, (3) implies wetlands so described are in some way “isolated,” an often incorrect implication, (4) is inconsistent with more broadly used and accepted concepts of “geographic isolation,” and (5) has injected unnecessary confusion into scientific investigations and discussions. Instead, we suggest other wetland classification systems offer more informative alternatives. For example, hydrogeomorphic (HGM) classes based on well-established scientific definitions account for wetland functional diversity thereby facilitating explorations into questions of connectivity without an a priori designation of “isolation.” Additionally, an HGM-type approach could be used in combination with terms reflective of current regulatory or policymaking needs. For those rare cases in which the condition of being surrounded by uplands is the relevant distinguishing characteristic, use of terminology that does not unnecessarily imply isolation (e.g., “upland embedded wetlands”) would help alleviate much confusion caused by the “geographically isolated wetlands” misnomer.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Geographically isolated wetlands: Rethinking a misnomer
DOI 10.1007/s13157-015-0631-9
Authors David M. Mushet, Aram J.K. Calhoun, Laurie C. Alexander, Matthew J. Cohen, Edward S. DeKeyser, Laurie G. Fowler, Charles R. Lane, Megan W. Lang, Mark C. Rains, Susan C. Walls
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Wetlands
Series Number
Index ID 70139713
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center