Optimizing wetland restoration to improve water quality at a regional scale

Nitin K. Singh, Jesse D. Gourevitch, Beverley C. Wemple, Keri B. Watson, Donna M. Rizzo, Stephen Polasky, Taylor H. Ricketts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Excessive phosphorus (P) export to aquatic ecosystems can lead to impaired water quality. There is a growing interest among watershed managers in using restored wetlands to retain P from agricultural landscapes and improve water quality. We develop a novel framework for prioritizing wetland restoration at a regional scale. The framework uses an ecosystem service model and an optimization algorithm that maximizes P reduction for given levels of restoration cost. Applying our framework in the Lake Champlain Basin, we find that wetland restoration can reduce P export by 2.6% for a budget of $50 M and 5.1% for a budget of $200 M. Sensitivity analysis shows that using finer spatial resolution data for P sources results in twice the P reduction benefits at a similar cost by capturing hot-spots on the landscape. We identify 890 wetlands that occur in more than 75% of all optimal scenarios and represent priorities for restoration. Most of these wetlands are smaller than 7 ha with contributing area less than 100 ha and are located within 200 m of streams. Our approach provides a simple yet robust tool for targeting restoration efforts at regional scales and is readily adaptable to other restoration strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number064006
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume14
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - May 29 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank The Nature Conservancy Vermont for framing and direction of the work. The study was funded by The Nature Conservancy (VT063016-01) with support from Lintilhac Foundation, Bay and Paul Foundation, Highfield Foundation, Vermont Community Foundation, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, and individual donors. NKS received support from TNC Vermont (VT063016-01) and National Science Foundation (CBET 1360398); JG and KBW received support from USDA McIntire-Stennis (2014-32100-06050). BCW, THR, and DMR received support from the National Science Foundation under VT EPSCoR (NSF OIA 1556770). We do not have any conflicts of interest to declare.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd.

Keywords

  • Phosphorus
  • TMDL
  • ecosystem services
  • green infrastructure
  • nature-based solution
  • pareto-curve
  • spatial prioritization

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