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Trading wetlands no longer a deal with the devil
Date:1/17/2013

URBANA If Faust had been in the business of trading wetlands rather than selling his soul, the devil might be portrayed by the current guidelines for wetland restoration. Research from the University of Illinois recommends a new framework that could make Faustian bargains over wetland restoration sites result in more environmentally positive outcomes.

U of I ecologist Jeffrey Matthews explained that under the current policies if a wetland is scheduled for development and a negative impact is unavoidable, the next option is to offset, or compensate, for the destruction through restoration of a wetland or creation of a new wetland somewhere else. Although the policies previously specified that it be a nearby wetland, regulatory agencies have begun favoring mitigation banking that does not ensure that a wetland with equivalent characteristics to the one being destroyed will be preserved.

"Currently destruction of wetlands can be offset by restoration of wetlands quite a distance away from the wetland that was destroyed," said Matthews. "It's usually within the same large watershed, but if the upper reaches of the watershed up along the small headwater streams are being destroyed and replaced by larger mitigation banks that are perhaps on larger rivers downstream, the species that are characteristic of those small headwater streams may not be the type of species that tend to occur in those larger, main-stem high-order streams." Like Faust's pact, it may not represent an equivalent trade. "A lot of smaller, unique wetlands in a watershed might be traded for one large homogeneous wetland," he said.

Matthews said that larger wetlands can support a greater number of species, and larger populations of those species, and because of the economies of scale, they are more cost-effective. He said that these large wetland banks are maintained by people who have a lot of expertise in restoring wetlands.

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Contact: Debra Levey Larson
dlarson@illinois.edu
217-244-2880
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Source:Eurekalert  

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