GOOD

When it Comes to Wetlands, It's Hard to Improve on the Original

A new analysis shows that restored wetlands store less carbon and host a less diverse group of plants and animals than untouched ones.

Before the Revolutionary War, George Washington had a professional interest in wetlands: He invested in a company that planned to drain the Great Dismal Swamp of Virginia and turn it into farmland. For centuries, Washington's attitude was considered the only reasonable one regarding swamps, marshes, peatlands, floodplains, mangroves, fens, potholes, bogs, and other places of muck and slime: They should be avoided or drained for better uses. Only in the past few decades have citizens decided that these areas—what we now call wetlands—did more than sog up perfectly good farmland.


Even though they cover only 1.5 percent of the earth’s surface, some experts estimate that wetlands provide 40 percent of renewable “ecosystem services”—jobs like water filtration and carbon sequestration. And although at least part Washington's particular "dismal swamp" survived, the United States has lost more than half of the wetlands that covered the continent when the first European settlers arrived. Similar losses have been documented in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

To mitigate losses, governments in the U.S. and elsewhere have supported wetlands restoration projects and begun requiring developers who destroy wetlands to offset the losses by creating new ones. But ecologists have found that restored wetlands are not as ecologically valuable as the originals—a new analysis of 621 wetland sites shows that, on average, restored wetlands regained only about three-quarters of their original biological performance. In restored wetlands, plants, insects, and animals do not reach their former abundance, density or diversity. Wetlands are also excellent carbon storage facilities: They hold at least a quarter of the world's land-based carbon, according to the World Resources Institute’s Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. But restored wetlands hold less carbon—on average, 23 percent less than untouched wetlands, according to the analysis.

It’s not news to ecologists that revived wetlands are a shadow of their former selves, but the study’s lead author, David Moreno-Mateos, a postdoctoral fellow at University of California, Berkeley, was surprised by how definitive the pattern was. “It was clear it's happening all over the world and all sorts of wetlands,” he says. Most of the wetlands included in the study are located in the United States, but Moreno-Mateos was able to include examples from all over the world. A few wetlands had been restored 50 or 100 years ago, but even they don’t perform as well as the ones they replaced.

This doesn’t mean that wetlands can never recover to their original state, but that a drained and developed wetland cannot be replaced by another constructed or restored wetland in a reasonable time period. Part of the problem is that restored wetlands might be judged on cosmetic fixes: If there are enough plants and animals around, it’s considered a job well done. But just because a wetland appears to have recovered doesn’t mean it’s performing the same functions—like carbon storage—it once was.

“You must worry about the function that you're losing,“ Moreno-Mateos says. “It's going to take centuries to grow back.”

Photo via (cc) Flickr user U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Region

Articles
via David Leavitt / Twitter

Anyone who has ever worked in retail knows that the worst thing about the job, right after the pay, are the unreasonable cheapskates who "want to talk to your manager" to get some money off an item.

They think that throwing a tantrum will save them a few bucks and don't care if they completely embarrass themselves in the process. Sometimes that involves belittling the poor employee who's just trying to get through their day with an ounce of dignity.

Twitter is rallying around a gal named Tori who works at a Target in Massachusetts after she was tweet-shamed by irate chapekate, journalist, and Twitter troll, David Leavitt.

Keep Reading
Business

Childbirth is the number one reason American women visit the hospital, and it ain't cheap. In fact, it's getting more and more expensive. A new study published in Health Affairs found that the cost of having a baby with employer-sponsored health insurance increased by almost 50% in the past seven years.

The study evaluated "trends in cost-sharing for maternity care for women with employer-based health insurance plans, before and after the Affordable Care Act," which was signed into law in 2010. The study looked at over 657,061 women enrolled in large employer-sponsored health insurance plans who delivered babies between 2008 and 2015, as these plans tend to cover more than plans purchased by small businesses or individuals.

Keep Reading
Health

A meteorite crashed into Earth nearly 800,000 years ago. The meteor was 1.2 miles wide, and the impact was so big, it covered 10% of the planet with debris. However, scientists haven't been able to find the impact site for over a century. That is, until now. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal believes the crash site has been located.

Tektites, which are essentially rocks that have been liquefied from the heat of the impact and then cooled to form glass, help scientists spot the original impact site of a meteor. Upon impact, melted material is thrown into the atmosphere, then falls back to the ground. Even if the original crater has disappeared due to erosion or is hidden by a shift in tectonic plates, tektites give the spot away. Tektites between 750,000 to 35.5 million years old have been found in every continent except Antarctica.

Keep Reading