"The most recent decision in 2006 (Rapanos) reinstated the long-standing doctrine of the "significant nexus," declaring that if such a nexus between wetlands and traditional navigable waters could be quantified, then those wetlands should fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act," Jacob said.
"The research we've reported here is the first in the country, after Rapanos, to address the nexus issue for a class of wetlands in this case, coastal prairie potholes on the upper Texas Gulf Coast."
He said in the anatomy of ecosystems "forests are the lungs and wetlands are the kidneys. But headwater wetlands, like the prairie pothole wetlands we studied, are perhaps more like lymph nodes, acting to filter pollutants in the furthest reaches of the watershed. Given that at least one third of the water in Galveston Bay is derived from runoff which courses through these wetlands, it is critical that we do not lose so many of these wetlands that we can no longer maintain a healthy aquatic ecosystem."
Jacob said with all the new development and potential loss of wetlands coming to the lower Galveston Bay watershed in the next few decades, there's a threat of "losing the defenses we need."
"The quantitative demonstration of a significant hydrological connection between headwater prairie pothole wetlands and Galveston Bay does not mean that development and fill of these wetlands will not take place," he said. "It does mean, however, that the loss of any of these headwater wetlands should be mitigated, just as is done now for development of wetlands adjacent to Galveston Bay and other waters.
"The mitigation process can be used to protect and restore critical headwater wetlands, which have already largely been identified," says Jacob. "Prairie pothole wetlands are precisely the wetlands most impacted by development in the greater Houston area. That non
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Texas A&M AgriLife Communications