New research reveals vast tracts of wetlands along the upper Gulf Coast are more hydrologically connected to Galveston Bay and other waters of the U.S. than previously thought, suggesting immediate implications for how they are preserved, managed and regulated, according to Texas AgriLife scientists.
"Loss of wetlands closer to traditional navigable waters must be mitigated under the Clean Water Act by creating new wetlands, or preferably by protecting and restoring similar existing wetlands," said Dr. John Jacob, Texas AgriLife Extension Service environmental quality specialist. "This ensures that the aquatic integrity of state and federal waters is maintained, because wetlands provide critical ecological services such as pollution removal, among others."
The study's findings appear in the journal Wetlands. Jacob said the study suggests that wetlands farther up in the watershed are just as critical to the aquatic integrity of state and federal waters as those that are immediately adjacent to these waters.
"The coastal 'prairie pothole' wetlands studied were considered to be hydrologically isolated from traditional navigable waters by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that they are, in effect, essentially closed depressions that contribute little or no water downstream," Jacob said.
The findings quantify "anecdotal observations" by professionals in the field over many years of substantial runoff coming from the wetlands, said Dr. Brad Wilcox, Texas AgriLife Research rangeland scientist.
"(Our research) suggests surface runoff occurred regularly and accounted for at least 17 percent of watershed precipitation during the 45-month long study," Wilcox said. "Runoff events averaged 17 days."
The results of this study have national implications. The difficulty of determining just how far Clean Water Act regulations should extend up into the watersheds above traditional navigable waters has resulted in many lawsuit
|Contact: Blair Fannin|
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications