Wetland habitat loss is substantial in the U.S.
Habitat loss has occurred at devastating rates throughout the world over the past two centuries. Yet these losses are not all equal, and some environments have been affected more than others. Wetland habitat in North America provides one such example. Throughout much of the United States, wetland habitat loss has been substantial:
A wading bird, a Great Blue Heron, in the wetlands of the Myakka River basin. Florida. Photographer: Gary Burdette.
Over 20 states have lost 50% or more of their original wetlands.
95% of today’s wetlands are freshwater.
New Zealand has lost over 90% of its original wetlands.
Between 1780’s and 1980’s, the lower 48 states have lost 53% of the original wetland habitat, or about 104 million acres.1
Twenty-two states have lost 50% or more of their original wetlands, with California losing the largest percentage (91%) and Florida losing the most acreage (9.3 million acres).1
Most recent losses over the past two decades have been primarily due to agriculture and urban development.2
Most recent losses have been in freshwater wetlands (98%), and 95% of the remaining wetlands are freshwater (as opposed to coastal marshes).2
Loss of Wetlands: How Are Bird Communities Affected?
- » “Birds: What Can They Tell Us about Our Planet?”
In an unprecedented partnership, government wildlife agencies and conservation organizations have come together to produce the first comprehensive analysis for the United States of America—the 2009 State of the Birds Report. Read the article by Paul Schmidt.
- » “Climate Change Threatens Penguins.”
This article by Shaye Wolf outlines threats to many penguin species of the world. According to research, 11 of the 18 species are considered threatened—only 2 are considered stable.
- » “It’s not Easy Being Green: Wind Energy and a Declining Grassbird.”
Pruett et al. (BioScience, March 2009) discuss the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus), which is an umbrella species for the short- and mixed-grass prairie ecosystem of the south-central United States. Read the abstract, or log in to purchase the full article.
- » “Changes in Bird Abundance in Eastern North America: Urban Sprawl and Global Footprint?”
According to Ivan Valiela , and Paulina Martinetto’s April 2007, BioScience article, the abundance of birds recorded in the North American Breeding Bird Survey decreased by up to 18% between 1966–2005. The abundance of US and Canadian resident species decreased by 30%, and that of migrants within the United States and Canada decreased by 19%. By contrast, Neotropical migrants increased by up to 20%. Learn more about the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Free to read.
The site provides information regarding the status of wetlands throughout the world, including info on global waterbird issues.
Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has a number of free fact sheets related to migratory birds. The publications are available in both English and Spanish.
U.S. Wetlands Inventory
“The National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service produces information on the characteristics, extent, and status of the Nation’s wetlands and deepwater habitats,” including useful maps displaying wetland locations.
Effects of management practices on wetland birds
This site has links to a variety of North American wetland bird species. Each link contains a thorough review of issues regarding management and wetland birds.
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
This Center is a leader in wildlife research and this site provides information for both the novice and the professional, including links to a variety of info on both birds and wetlands.
Bird identification on the Web
This site has links to information on North American birds. Each link includes “photographs, songs, videos, identification tips, maps, and life history information.”
Avian Science Center
On-line source to a variety of issues regarding birds and their habitats. In addition, it contains links to sites where you can help participate in projects related to birds.
The Wetlands Institute of Stone Harbor, NJ is “The Natural Place to Have Fun Learning!” The organization promotes the conservation and preservation of coastal ecosystems by providing a fun and educational experience for families, school groups, and vacationers of all ages.
At the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, you can participate in a variety of projects related to birds in North America, including the backyard bird count.
The Audubon Society: taking action
This site contains information regarding current issues in bird conservation. It contains links for contacting lawmakers on conservation issues that impact birds, wildlife, and the environment.
- Dahl, T. E. 1990. “Wetland losses in the United States: 1780’s to 1980’s.” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC. 13 p.
- Dahl, T. E. 2000. “Status and trends of wetlands in the conterminous United States 1986 to 1997.” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC. 82 p.
- Brinson, M. M., and A. I. Malvarez. 2002. “Temperate freshwater wetlands: types, status, and threats.” Environmental Conservation 29:115-133.
- Tzoumis, K. A. 1998. “Wetland policymaking in the U. S. Congress from 1789-1995.” Wetlands 18:447-459.
- De Laney, T. A. 1995. “Benefits to downstream flood attenuation and water quality as a result of constructed wetlands in agricultural landscapes.” Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 50: 620-626.
- Howard-Williams, C. 1985. “Cycling and retention of nitrogen and phosphorus in wetlands: theoretical and applied perspective.” Freshwater Biology 15:391-431.
- Raisin, G. W., and D. S. Mitchell. 1995. “The use of wetlands for the control of non-point source pollution.” Water Science and Technology 32:177-186.
- Chabreck, R. A. 1988. Coastal marshes: ecology and wildlife management. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN.
- van der Valk, A. G., editor. 1989. Northern Prairie Wetlands. Iowa State University Press, Ames, IA.
- Wiebe, K. D., A. Tegen, and B. Kuhn. 1995. “Property rights, partial interests, and the evolving federal role in wetlands conversion and conservation.” Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 50:627-629.
- Igl, L. D., and D. H. Johnson.1994. “Changes in breeding bird populations in North Dakota: 1967 to 1992-93.” Auk 114:74-92.
- Fletcher, R. J., Jr., and R. R. Koford. 2003. “Changes in breeding bird populations with habitat restoration in northern Iowa.” American Midland Naturalist 150:83-94.
- Johnson, D. H. 2001. Habitat fragmentation effects on birds in grasslands and wetlands: a critique of our knowledge. Great Plains Research 11:211-231.
- Whitt, M. B., H. H. Prince, and R. R. Cox, Jr. 1999. “Avian use of purple loosestrife dominated habitat relative to other vegetation types in a Lake Huron wetland complex.” Wilson Bulletin 111:105-114.
- Poiani, K. A., and W. C. Johnson. 1991. “Global warming and prairie wetlands: potential consequences for waterfowl habitat.” Bioscience 41:611-618.
- Weller, M. W. 1999.Wetland birds: habitat resources and conservation implications.Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
- Bethke, R. W., and T. D. Nudds. 1995. “Effects of climate change and lands use on duck abundance in Canadian prairie-parklands.” Ecological Applications 5:588-600.
- Naugle, D. E., K. F. Higgins, S. M. Nusser, and W. C. Johnson. 1999. “Scale-dependent habitat use in three species of prairie wetland birds.” Landscape Ecology 14:267-276.
- Benoit, L. K., and R. A. Askins. 2002. “Relationship between habitat area and the distribution of tidal marsh birds.” Wilson Bulletin 114:314-323.
- Whited, D., S. Galatowitsch, J. R. Tester, K. Schik, R. Lehtinen, J. Husveth. 2000. “The importance of local and regional factors in predicting effective conservation planning strategies for wetland bird communities in agricultural and urban landscapes.” Landscape and Urban Planning 49:49-65.
- Fairbairn, S. E., and J. J. Dinsmore. 2001. “Local and landscape-level influences on wetland bird communities of the Prairie Pothole Region of Iowa, USA.” Wetlands 21:41-47.
- Picman, J., M. L. Milks, and M. Leptich. 1993. “Patterns of predation on passerine nests in marshes: effects of water depth and distance from edge.” Auk 110:89-94.
- Phillips, M. L., W. R. Clark, M. A. Sovada, D. J. Horn, R. R. Koford, and R. J. Greenwood. 2003. “Predator selection of prairie landscape features and its relation to duck nest success.” Journal of Wildlife Management 67:104-114.
- Seabloom, E. W., and A. G. van der Valk. 2003. “Plant diversity, composition, and invasion of restored and natural prairie pothole wetlands: implications for restoration.” Wetlands 23:1-12.
- Ratti, J. T., A. M. Rocklage, J. H. Giudice, E. O. Garton, and D. P. Golner. 2001. “Comparison of avian communities on restored and natural wetlands in North and South Dakota.” Journal of Wildlife Management 65:676-684.