New $3.2 million research on the benefits to humans & wildlife of ecologically restoring drained wetlands in 15 U.S. farming states

On October 12, 2021 the non–profit wetland restoration organization Ducks Unlimited (DU) announced that it will serve as the lead organization for a recently awarded research grant totaling $3.2 million from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

As North America’s premier science-based wetland habitat restoration and conservation organization, this grant will help scientists assess the climate change mitigation potential of wetland restoration in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

The new study will focus on climate benefits to restoring drained wetlands across 15 states in the Central U.S.

Wetlands account for up to 30% of global carbon storage and restored wetlands can sequester carbon five times faster than restored grasslands. However, wetlands also have complex greenhouse gas cycles and it has been difficult to comprehensively account for the role of wetlands in climate mitigation.

Across the American Midwest, an estimated 40-90% of wetlands have been drained since 1780. As a result, more than 80% of wetlands restoration under CRP takes place in this region.

We’ve long known wetlands offer many ecosystem services that have an outsized benefit for wildlife and people,” said Dr. Ellen Herbert, DU’s Ecosystem Services Scientist.

This study will help improve our understanding of the potential of CRP-restored wetlands to mitigate the effects of climate change, improve water quality and provide habitat. We believe the data gathered from this study will ultimately demonstrate the effectiveness and overall values offered by CRP. And we greatly appreciate USDA for selecting DU to partner in this project,” she added.

CRP is a voluntary program that provides a secure income stream to farmers, ranchers and other landowners as an incentive to establish long-term, resource-conserving cover on their land.

The size of this award is exciting because it has allowed us to bring together a diverse partnership of experts ranging from soil scientists to remote sensing experts to answer fundamental questions about wetland functions in agricultural landscapes across the Central U.S.,” said Dr. Steve Adair, DU’s Chief Scientist.

With over a dozen student and postdoctoral positions associated with this grant, we will also be helping train the next generation of natural resource scientists,” he added.

Research will be conducted in partnership with USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, Clemson University, Kenyon College, Lincoln University, Pennsylvania State University, United Tribes Technical College, University of Missouri, The University of Texas at Austin, and USDA North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory.

Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited.

See Ducks Unlimited website.

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