Science in the Service of Wetland Conservation

In 2012 I was invited to give a plenary talk in Toronto to Ontario Nature, to mark the more than 30 years that had passed since their landmark “Wetlands: Inertia or Momentum” conference and proceedings. My assignment was to explore what we had learned about wetlands in the interim, and the implications of this work for the coming decades of wetland conservation.

Read more about the talk

I reported that there have been six major developments that can guide future wetland conservation work, and that there are four key documents that summarize this progress, at least in the Great Lakes basin. The list of developments, and the four assigned readings, are available as a two page download:

As brief summary below gives the six main developments.

1. Natural water level fluctuations are not only normal, but essential for many lakeshore wetlands.

2. The same is true for rivers.  Floods and erosion create sandbanks and mudflats that provide the template for new wetlands.  Dams artificially stabilize water levels and block natural sediment movement.

3. Infertile habitats support many rare species.  This category includes sandy shorelines, lakeshore fens, gravel shorelines, sand spits and even riverine alvars.

4. The CSR model provides a valuable alternative to species by species conservation.  For some groups, such as plants and insects, there are too many species to study each one individually.

5. Pool and filter models provide a simple way to visualize the relationship between the pool of species in a landscape and effects of changing environmental conditions.

6. Our knowledge of species distributions in Ontario wetlands has improved significantly.  The challenge of how to incorporate this knowledge into the stewardship of wetlands remains.