Report Reveals Disturbing Trend of Increased Coastal Wetland Loss

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Photo © MichaelFurtman.com

An alarming national trend of increased loss of coastal wetlands was announced last November in a report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Conterminous United States 2004 to 2009 found that the country experiences a net loss of more than 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands each year, up from 60,000 acres lost per year during the previous study. 

"This study underscores the necessity of funding wetlands conservation programs such as the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the conservation programs in the Farm Bill," said DU Chief Conservation Officer Paul Schmidt. "Wetlands are so valuable because they serve many important functions. They provide waterfowl and other wildlife habitat, lessen the effects of floods and hurricanes, prevent soil erosion, improve water quality, and offer outdoor recreation opportunities."

Watersheds in the Great Lakes region experienced a net gain in wetland area (approximately 13,610 acres), highlighting the importance of conservation programs on agricultural and other undeveloped lands. However, wetland losses on the Gulf Coast (net loss of 257,150 acres) accounted for a remarkable 71 percent of the total recorded. These losses continue to erode capacity for coastal Louisiana and Texas to support waterfowl in the most important wintering area on the continent. The report also noted the loss of freshwater forested wetlands (405,700 acres) due to urban and rural development and some forestry practices.

"Forested wetlands are a particularly important class of wetlands because they constitute half of the remaining freshwater wetlands in the lower 48 states," said Dr. Scott Yaich, DU director of conservation planning and policy. "Wetland loss has accelerated dramatically since Clean Water Act protections for wetlands were withdrawn in 2001 and 2006. This report shows that forested wetlands account for the most freshwater wetland losses, and that's bad news for black ducks, mallards, and wood ducks."