Stormwater management ponds may not be the answer to depleting wetlands

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Relying on stormwater management (SWM) ponds to restore depleting wetlands is unsustainable and lacks ecosystem services essential for biodiversity, a new study has found.

With continued wetland losses projected into the near future and an emphasis on underestimating provincial wetland loss, the study captures the contributions of SWM ponds in a changing network of waterbodies and the effects of land use and land cover in this change.

Waterloo researchers led by Waverley Birch examined wetland loss, SWM pond creation, and land use-based trends in seven southern Ontario municipalities in Canada’s most populated ecozones from 2002 to 2010 using a geographic information system.

“The loss of wetlands contributes to the loss of ecosystem services in Ontario, with the likelihood of natural disasters such as droughts and floods becoming more frequent in urban areas,” Birch said.

For the years studied, the results show that the total number of SWM ponds created was 1.6 times greater than the number of wetlands lost for all municipalities combined and that an overall rate of 0.13% wetland area was lost per year.

“This is concerning due to the low proportion of wetlands left in these areas and the fact that the average pond in SWM was smaller than the average wetlands lost, which poses a great environmental challenge,” said Birch.

Researchers say wetland losses will continue with trends towards replacing them with SWM ponds. They observed that the losses are concentrated in wetlands which are generally not protected by provincial policies due to their small size.

“We recommend that protections be strengthened for wetlands of all sizes, thereby protecting communities by conserving the important ecosystem services that are vital for biodiversity and human health and well-being, which wetlands provide,” Birch said.

The study, authored by Waterloo’s Birch, Michael Drescher, Jeremy Pittman and Rebecca Rooney, was recently published in the Journal of Environmental Management.

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More information:
Waverley S. Birch et al, Trends and predictors of wetland conversion in urbanization environments, Journal of Environmental Management (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2022.114723

Provided by the University of Waterloo

Quote: Stormwater Ponds May Not Hold the Solution for Wetland Depletion (August 11, 2022) Retrieved August 11, 2022 from solution-depleting-wetlands.html

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