95th ESA Annual Meeting (August 1 -- 6, 2010)

OPS 4-7 - Wetlands...and more. Oh, my!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Exhibit Hall A, David L Lawrence Convention Center
Harold Balbach, Installations Division, US Army ERDC, Champaign, IL and Kurt Buhlmann, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, University of Georgia, Aiken, SC

Protection of wetlands has been a mantra for ecologists, planners, and conservationists for decades. Section 404 of the Clean Water Act established, as long as 35 years ago, that it was not permissible to fill more than very small amounts of waters and wetlands without appropriate planning and permission from regulatory agencies, such as the Corps of Engineers or the Environmental Protection Agency. This has led to inclusion of wetland mitigation requirements in virtually all major Federally funded projects. Overall, nobody can argue that this had not been a good thing, but we see that “wetlands” are regularly defined very tightly, with the borders of the preserved area exactly at the edge of the water or wetland vegetation zone. Many proposed wetland “mitigation” sites also defined in this manner. This concept of “preserving wetlands” ignores especially the ecology of the amphibians and reptiles who utilize these wetlands. While they may require the water body and surrounding marshy areas for reproduction, many…if not most…of these species spend the majority of their life cycle in adjacent fields and forests. If the adjacent “fields” are paved parking lots or interstate highways, then the wetlands have been preserved, but the species dependent on them have not really been served. We have compiled sets of information on major groups of amphibians and reptiles for which this is the case, and sorted them by ecological region, habitat needs, and political boundaries.  Results/Conclusions The pilot educational product concept shown here is for use in K-16 coursework as well as by the interested public. It combines this information in a searchable form, distributable on CD, or, potentially on line, wherein the student or user may ask for the upland habitat needs of a species known to be found in association with a particular water body or wetland. This may then be compared to the proposed project boundaries and other site information known to the user, and an evaluation made as to the real adequacy of the proposed wetland mitigation.