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USGS Scientists Present at 2008 International Meeting of the Society of Wetland Scientists: May 26 - 30


Climate change and sea level rise are threatening wetlands and impacting nearby species habitat, water quality, recreation sites and more. Effective wetland conservation programs are needed that consider climate change. U.S. Geological Survey scientists are studying related impacts to wetlands and will discuss their research and collaborative conservation projects at this meeting.

Tuesday, May 27

Global Change and the Function and Distribution of Wetlands - Symposium

Impacts of Sea level Rise on Coastal Wetlands: Will Elevated Carbon Dioxide Make a Difference?
Global changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide and climate are expected to affect coastal wetlands and their ability to keep up with rising sea level. Multiple factors may interact to alter the vertical accretion of coastal marshes under different global change scenarios, and new data has been acquired showing how carbon dioxide enrichment may increase soil expansion by stimulating plant production. (Karen McKee, USGS)

Wetlands as Sentinels of Climate Change: Effects on Goods and Services - Symposium

Coastal Wetlands as Sentinels of Climate Change
Coastal wetlands are critical habitat for many species and perform important ecosystem services. These services include providing an avenue for human recreation, improving water quality by filtering of sediments and nutrients, dissipating the energy and reducing the erosive effects of coastal storms, and recycling and exchanging nutrients within and among estuarine habitats. As sea level rise is now accelerating above historic rates due to global warming, coastal wetlands will become increasingly vulnerable to submergence if wetland vertical development can not keep pace. (Donald R. Cahoon, USGS)

Vulnerability of Central North American Wetlands to Climate Change
The Prairie Pothole Region of North America contains 5 - 8 million wetlands, provides critical habitat for continental waterfowl populations, and provides valuable ecosystem services for the region and nation. The USGS developed computer simulation models, which use the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections for future temperature and precipitation change in this region over the next century. These models suggest that many of the wetlands in this region will be drier and lose their ability to provide critical ecosystem services. These scenarios also suggest that the future best landscapes for maintaining biodiversity, critical ecosystem services and habitat for waterfowl populations will shift eastward from the east central Dakotas and Canadian prairies to the wetter climates of western Minnesota and Iowa, areas where most wetlands have been lost because of agricultural activities. (Glenn Guntenspergen, USGS)

Potential Effects of Climate Change on Forested Wetlands in the Lower Mississippi Valley
The Lower Mississippi Valley is the nation’s largest floodplain and the forest and wetland ecosystems of the Lower Mississippi Valley provide critically important ecosystem services. Climate is a large-scale agent of change controlling dominant drivers of ecosystem structure, processes, and services. The effects of predicted climate change on hydrology and land cover and the cascading impacts on ecosystem services in the Lower Mississippi Valley are largely unknown. This is a significant gap in our knowledge base directly affecting resource management, conservation, and ecosystem restoration programs of federal, state and local governments. (Stephen Faulkner, USGS)

Wednesday, May 28

** Fieldtrip: Restored Tidal Freshwater Wetlands of the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C.

During the first half of the 20th century, most of the freshwater tidal marshes along the Anacostia River were removed by mandated dredging, filling, erosional scour, etc. Over the past 15 years, efforts to restore the Anacostia wetlands have taken place through seven separate projects. This tour is designed to visit five of the Anacostia’s most prominent freshwater tidal marsh reconstruction sites. Ordinary field footwear will suffice. (Dick Hammerschlag and Cairn Krafft, USGS)

Disassembly of Coastal Ecosystems in the Face of Global Change - Symposium

Effects of Climate Change on Wetland Sustainability and Restoration
As sea levels rise and human alterations of the world’s coasts continue, further understanding of coastal ecosystems and responses to sea level rise is needed to better manage and restore these critical coastal habitats. Wetlands differ in their vulnerability to sea level rise because of regional and local controls on wetland surface elevation. Wetlands build vertically through the accumulation of both mineral and organic matter. Should sea level rise exceed the threshold for vertical soil development, vegetation will become stressed and eventually die and the wetland will convert to open water. (Donald R. Calhoon, USGS)

Wetland Associations of Coastal Marsh Birds throughout North America: Implications for Climate Change Impacts
Although present throughout the world, coastal marshes occupy a very small amount of the surface area of the globe. The number and size of coastal marshes in North America have declined over the past 200 years and continue to decline due to coastal development. Many of the species that depend on these coastal marshes are already uncommon and projected increases in sea level may increase the probability of eradication. Two shorebirds, which are most likely to be negatively affected by rising sea levels, were examined in coastal ecosystems in North America. (Courtney Conway, USGS)

Thursday, May 29

** Wetlands Policy in a Changing Environment - Plenary Session

Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior Lynn Scarlett and USGS Chief Scientist for Global Change Research Virginia Burkett are among the speakers during this session. Scarlett will present on the topics of federal lands, water and climate change and Burkett will present on wetlands and climate change.

The USDA Conservation Effects Assessment Program: Wetlands Component - Symposium

Conservation Practice Effects on Wetland Ecosystem Services in the Lower Mississippi Valley
The forest, wetland and aquatic ecosystems that dominated the Lower Mississippi Valley prior to European colonization provided an array of ecosystem services. The conversion of these natural areas to row-crop agriculture has resulted in landscape-scale alteration of water, biologic and chemical interactions that are unprecedented in both scale and scope. The objective of conservation programs, such as the Wetlands Reserve Program and Conservation Reserve Program, is to restore and protect the functions and values of wetlands. The goal of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project Wetlands program is to develop a scientific methodology to assess the effects of conservation practices on ecosystem services provided by wetlands. (Stephen Faulkner, USGS)

Characterization of Prairie Pothole Catchment Soils: Implications for Delivery of Ecosystem Services
Implementation of USDA conservation programs has resulted in the restoration of more than 5 million acres of wetland and grassland habitats in the U.S. portion of the Prairie Pothole Region. Two apparent benefits of conservation programs are a reduction in soil erosion and an overall improvement in soil quality. However, little work has been conducted to document changes in soil characteristics that occur when catchments (uplands and wetlands) of Prairie Pothole wetlands in agricultural production are restored as part of conservation programs. To address this need, the USGS and the USDA collaboratively conducted a survey of 270 wetland catchments in the Prairie Pothole Region. Comparisons were made about soil characteristics among restored, agricultural (cropped) and native grassland catchments. (Raymond Finocchiaro, USGS)

The Prairie Pothole Regional Assessment: Results of a Survey to Estimate Ecosystem Services Derived from USDA Conservation Reserve and Wetlands Reserve Program Lands
Restoration of wetland habitats through these conservation programs is perceived to provide various ecosystem services such as increasing plant diversity, providing wildlife habitat, improving soil and water quality, and sequestering carbon. To help quantify and evaluate environmental benefits achieved by these programs, the USDA initiated the National Assessment component of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project. The goal of the Prairie Pothole Region assessment by the USGS was to develop approaches to estimate ecological services provided by conservation practices and to use these approaches to quantify changes from USDA funded conservation programs. (Robert Gleason, USGS)

Effects of Conservation Programs on Amphibian Species Richness of Seasonal Wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region
The Prairie Pothole Region of the United States has been subjected to extensive anthropogenic land-use change that has altered habits from their natural state. In order to minimize environmental degradation while promoting sustainable agriculture, the USDA has implemented various conservation programs throughout the Prairie Pothole Region. Surveys of amphibians were conducted in an effort to quantify the effects of conservation programs on biodiversity. Similar numbers of amphibian species were found using restored and natural wetlands across the region. However, farmed wetlands consistently displayed lower species richness, especially in the southeastern portion of the Prairie Pothole Region. Findings suggest that restoration efforts are providing suitable habitat for most amphibian species using seasonal wetlands. (Caleb Balas, USGS)

Advancing Floristic Quality Assessment in Wetland Plant Assemblages - Symposium

The Effects of Natural Climate Variation on Floristic Quality Assessments of Wetland Plant Communities
Wetland plant communities in the Glaciated Plains of North America undergo species composition fluctuations as the region’s dynamic climate cycles between periods of drought and heavy rain. The dynamic environmental conditions of prairie wetlands have made development of biotic indicators of wetland integrity problematic. Long-term monitoring was conducted on wetland plant communities at the Cottonwood Lake Study Area, a prairie wetland complex on the Missouri Coteau in east-central North Dakota. (David Mushet, USGS)

Friday, May 30

** Coastal Habitat Restoration and Climate Change: Priorities for the Future - Panel

This panel aims to broaden the restoration community’s and policymakers’ understanding of climate change impacts on coastal habitat restoration and protection. As coastal impacts related to climate change increase, agencies and organizations that restore habitat must take into account a range of future scenarios, such as higher sea level and warmer ocean temperatures, and be strategic about funding and locating new projects. In addition, a dialogue on restoration techniques and methodologies, taking into account resiliency and the effects of climate change on habitat restoration projects, needs to occur. Panelists will provide insight into the prioritization of coastal habitat restoration in the face of climate change. Panelists will discuss current knowledge, research gaps and needs, and ideas for new criteria for planning and monitoring coastal habitat restoration projects that take climate change into account. The discussion will also help inform Estuary Restoration Act agencies on how best to prioritize habitat restoration of estuaries nationwide. (Virginia Burkett, USGS)


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