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New study predicts risk of wetland habitat loss in southern United States
Date:5/18/2011

Baylor University, in collaboration with the U.S Forest Service (USFS) Rocky Mountain Research Station, has developed a model that predicts the risk of wetland habitat loss based on local wetland features and characteristics of the landscape surrounding the wetland. The new model was used to predict the fate of wetland habitats over a 13-state area in the southern United States and was published in the journal Ecological Applications.

"Because conservation resources are scarce, it is essential to focus conservation efforts on those geographic areas where the risks for further wetland habitat loss are the greatest," said Dr. Kevin Gutzwiller, professor of biology at Baylor who co-authored the study with the USFS. "Our predictive model can be used to plan protection efforts by helping to prioritize wetland areas for conservation. The model also can be used to assess the effectiveness of current wetland conservation programs."

Wetlands are crucial habitats for many plants and animals, yet many are converted for other human land uses. In fact, according to government figures, between 1992 and 1997, more than 500,000 acres of wetlands were lost in the United States. Seventy-five percent of those losses were attributed to development or agriculture. The greatest loss during this period occurred in the southern United States, with development as the main reason for wetland habitat loss.

The researchers focused their study on the southern United States since in that region urbanization and housing development increased at a greater rate than in any other region in the country from the early 1980s to the late 1990s. Moreover, the southern United States also has nearly half the nonfederal wetlands occurring in the contiguous United States, and is the region where the majority of wetland acreage was converted during the 1990s.

The study authors used data obtained from the National Resources Inventory and from the National Land
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Contact: Matt Pene
Matt_Pene@baylor.edu
254-710-4656
Baylor University
Source:Eurekalert

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