Wetlands in Agricultural Landscapes as Habitat for Aquatic Wildlife

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Sarah French, James Devries , Dale Wrubleski , David McLachlin , Daniel McIsaac , Rebecca Rooney

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Wetlands provide critical habitat and valuable ecosystem services. However, land use conversion in southern Ontario over the past 200 years has led to the loss of 72% of wetlands. Wetlands in agricultural landscapes may offset wetland loss but are susceptible to contamination by pesticides and nutrients. We tested to what degree wetlands in agricultural landscapes supported aquatic wildlife based on surrounding land cover. We expected that wetlands surrounded by agricultural activity would be low quality habitat for aquatic species due to impaired water quality. We sampled 28 open-water wetlands in southwestern Ontario that were created, restored, or enhanced by Ducks Unlimited Canada within the past 5–10 years in partnership with local landowners. These wetlands were surrounded by forests, grasslands, and/or agricultural fields (Figure 1). We measured pesticide and nutrient levels and identified the aquatic invertebrate and fish communities throughout the summer after planting season. Of the pesticides tested for, 24 compounds were detected across 36% of wetlands. From our preliminary identification of invertebrates, 53 taxa were found across wetlands (14 ± 1.4 per wetland), with greater diversity in wetlands with cooler water temperatures and more surrounding forest cover (p = 0.04). Eight fish species were found across 89% of wetlands (2 ± 0.3 per wetland). Restoring wetlands in agricultural landscapes may therefore provide habitat for and bolster wetland-dependent species, as long as there are no long-term negative effects on these species, and will help to offset wetland loss in Ontario.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program