Agriculture Creating Valuable Wetlands Benefitting Wildlife

Published September 16, 2016

Wetlands around the world have decreased significantly, but agriculture and other types of development are creating new wetlands, even in places where they may not have existed before, according to two studies presented at the North American Congress for Conservation Biology (NACCB) in July.

Nathan Van Schmidt, the lead author of one of the two studies, says the new wetlands are creating new habitats for birds which might have otherwise disappeared.

“We think this is a great story for both conservation and agriculture,” said Van Schmidt as reported on the website which covered the story.

Van Schmidt and his colleagues found irrigation bolstered many of the natural wetlands in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, keeping them wet even in the dry months of summer.

“It seems to be supporting the birds by giving them persistent water year-round,” Van Schmidt said.

Farmers Benefitting the Environment

University of Connecticut professor Chris Elphick, who has studied many human created wetlands systems all over the world, told the Congress, “They are not a substitute for a natural wetland, but they nonetheless provide a lot of habitat.”

“As long as we pay attention to some of the possible concerns, we can take these small wetlands and have them add up to a lot for birds, dragonflies, and other species that maybe don’t have their habitats anymore,” reports Elphick said at the NACCB.

Such wetlands are a great example of how farmers benefit nature, notes Elphick.

“Agriculture and conservation are often seen as being at loggerheads, but most farmers I know really like wildlife, and like working outdoors, and just want to make a buck like everyone else,” Elphick said. “If you work with the farmer, often it’s a great partnership. The farmers are willing to try out new things as long as they can still farm.”

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.