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Golf Courses Could Serve as Wildlife Sanctuaries If Managed Properly

Golf courses, if properly managed, could serve as important wildlife sanctuaries, a recent study by a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher has revealed .

"There are more than 17,000 golf courses in the United States, and approximately 70 percent of that land is not used for playing. These managed green spaces aren't surrogates for protected land and ecosystems, but they can include suitable habitat for species native to the area. Golf courses could act as nature sanctuaries if managed properly," said Ray Semlitsch, Curators' Professor of Biology in the MU College of Arts and Science.

Semlitsch, along with Michelle Boone, an assistant professor at Miami University in Ohio and former MU graduate student, and J. Russell Bodie, senior scientist for Audubon International, outlined recommendations that would improve golf course habitats for amphibian populations in a paper published in USGA Turfgrass and Environmental Research Online in January.

Their recommendations included buffering aquatic habitats from chemical runoff, surrounding wetland areas with 150 to 300 meters of forest or natural grassland, and creating a diversity of pond types that mimic natural wetlands.

A recent study by Semlitsch, Boone and Cory Mosby, a senior at MU, built on these suggestions, and found that completely drying golf course ponds in the late summer or early fall would benefit amphibian populations and biodiversity.

"It's a hard concept for people to understand, but non-permanent wetlands are more natural than permanent wetlands. Most natural wetlands dry for some periods of time, and the species that live in them are well-adapted for this. The natural drying process benefits amphibians, and it releases nutrients from the soil. Maintaining permanent ponds actually harms biodiversity," said Prof. Semlitsch.

In the study, the researchers used two types of ponds - control reference ponds and ponds l
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