Trends and Predictors of Wetland Conversion in Urbanizing Environments

Resource Type
Waverley Birch
MIchael Drescher
Jeremy Pittman
Rebecca Rooney
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Wetlands provide critical ecosystem services including flood mitigation and habitat for diverse species, but globally, many wetlands have been destroyed. In urban areas and surrounding urban-rural fringes, many lost wetlands have been indirectly replaced with stormwater management (SWM) ponds. SWM ponds are designed to manage urban stormwater and contaminants, but only provide limited ecosystem services. In our study area, historic extent of wetland loss is partially documented, while more recent losses and SWM pond creation have not been fully reported. We examine wetland loss and SWM pond creation in seven southern Ontario (Canada) municipalities from 2002 to 2010. We then apply a Markov model to project future extent of wetland losses and SWM pond creation, with and without effects of specific land use and land cover types. We find that from 2002 to 2010, 95.5 ha of wetlands were lost, with most being smaller than 2 ha in size. A total area of 111.6 ha of SWM ponds was created, but on average, created SWM ponds were smaller than lost wetlands. Our projections to 2026 suggest wetland losses of 438.1 ha and SWM pond creation of 293.8 ha. We suggest a need for more stringent wetland protection policies to conserve wetlands that still exist in growing municipalities, especially smaller wetlands. Lack of such protection will weaken provisioning of wetland-related ecosystem services, which are more critical than ever in a changing climate.