Protecting vulnerable waters

Check out a recent paper, on which we participated, that outlines a vision for protecting the least protected, most often imperiled surface waters.

Valuation of ecosystem services provided by vulnerable headwater streams and wetlands outside of floodplains in the contiguous U.S.

In the U.S., the Clean Water Act protects interstate “Waters of the USA”. Protecting such waters requires stewardship and conservation of small, upland aquatic systems like wetland basins and headwater streams, whose ecological functions (e.g., flood pulse dampening, pollutant retention, biodiversity reservoir) determine the condition of downgradient Waters of the USA. Yet, conserving upland waters is controversial because doing so constrains land development, even though these small systems have no visibly obvious link to navigable, commercially important lakes and rivers. Into this fray, the U.S. Supreme Court waded with two landmark cases limiting the Act’s application, and the current administration drags their feet administering the Act. This paper outlines the scientific basis for hydrological, biogeochemical, and biodiversity links between small vulnerable waterbodies high in watersheds and the rivers draining those watersheds, and it provides scientifically grounded options for protecting these vulnerable waters in the U.S. and worldwide as all governments struggle to find solutions for stewarding waters that serve as hotspots of ecological function. The paper was led by Irena Creed, from Western Univ in Ontario.

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