Agricultural conservation practices and wetland ecosystem services in the wetland-rich Piedmont–Coastal Plain region
In the eastern U.S. Coastal Plain and Piedmont region, diverse inland wetlands (riverine, depressional, wet flats) have been impacted by or converted to agriculture. Farm Bill conservation practices that restore or enhance wetlands can return their ecological functions and services to the agricultural landscape. We review the extent of regional knowledge regarding the effectiveness of these conservation practices. Riparian buffers and wetland habitat management have been the most commonly applied wetland-related practices across the region. Riparian Forest Buffers (RFB) have been most studied as a practice. Water quality functions including pollutant removal, provision of aquatic habitat, and enhanced instream chemical processing have been documented from either installed RFBs or natural riparian forests; forest buffers also serve wildlife habitat functions that depend in part on buffer width and connectivity. Wetland restoration/creation and habitat management practices have been less studied on regional agricultural lands; however, research on mitigation wetlands suggests that functional hydrology, vegetation, and faunal communities can be restored in depressional wetlands, and the wetland habitat management practices represent techniques adapted from those used successfully on wildlife refuges. Other conservation practices can also support wetland services. Drainage management on converted wetland flats restores some water storage functions, and viable wetlands can persist within grazed flats if livestock access and grazing are managed appropriately. Because wetland hydrogeomorphic type influences functions, ecosystem services from conservation wetlands will depend on the specifics of how practices are implemented. In a region of diverse wetlands, evaluation of ecological benefits could be improved with more information on the wetland types restored, created, and managed.
NOTE: This article is part of a Special Issue published by the Ecological Society of America. Citation: Conservation of Wetlands in Agricultural Landscapes (S.D. Eckles, ed.). 2011. Ecological Applications 21(3) Supplement. The full issue can be viewed at http://www.esajournals.org/toc/ecap/21/sp1