Getting more services out of wetlands

Posted on December 15, 2011

Recent years have seen a growing appreciation of the wide range of ecosystem services provided by natural wetlands, which has stimulated a desire to create and rehabilitate wetlands that  satisfy multiple functions.  While traditional objectives of wetland management relate to water quality, biodiversity, flood control and recreation, they are now being supplemented by additional objectives such as fisheries preservation, carbon sequestration and the maintenance of landscape diversity.  This behoves natural resource managers to adopt an integrated approach to wetland design that considers possible interactions and conflicts between multiple objectives.  To this end, a four-step method has been  recommended.  First, make a clear decision as to what the wetland(s) are needed for.    Second, identify the appropriate scale for retrieving the desired function(s).  For example, wetland designs for biodiversity strengthening or soil improvement are best conceived at the landscape (preferably catchment) scale.  Third, rank multiple objectives and consider functional compatibilities, conflicts and local limitations, bearing in mind that wetland design features (e.g., area, depth, shoreline complexity) can have conflicting effects on functions such as nutrient retention and biodiversity.  Fourth, define the implementation strategy: this may take a wide range of forms, from just single-purpose or multi-purpose wetlands to various combinations of both types.  Mixtures of single- and multi-purpose wetlands are especially beneficial because they help to create more varied and complex landscapes that provide extra services and more closely resemble natural ecosystems.

Reference:  Moreno-Mateos, D. & Comin, F.A.  2010.  Integrating objectives and scales for planning and implementing wetland restoration and creation in agricultural landscapes.  Journal of Environmental Management 91, 2087-2095.