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Value of Wetland Restoration Incentive Programs on Privately Owned Land for Species of Greatest Conservation Need
Mentor: Dr. Tom Langen
Department: Biology

Private-landowner incentive programs that compensate farmers and other landowners for existing wetland preservation or wetland restoration have become a major conservation tool of government agencies (e.g. USFWS, USDA) and NGOs (e.g. Ducks Unlimited, Nature Conservancy) concerned with wetland loss in agricultural regions of the US. Assessments of the USFWS Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program (PFWP) and USDA NRCS Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) have indicated that these programs are generally successful at restoring and conserving high-quality habitat for wildlife. The largest program of wetland restoration in the US, in terms of the number of participating landowners, is ongoing in the St. Lawrence Valley of New York: since the early 1990s, USFWS PFWP has restored over 100 wetlands in Jefferson and St. Lawrence County New York, primarily on private land under easement, and NRCS WRP has restored over 100 wetlands on private land in St. Lawrence County alone. In this proposed project, an REU participant will survey a sample of restored wetlands and matched-control natural wetlands for the diversity and abundance of two organismal indicators of wetland ecological functioning: freshwater fish and amphibians, and will also measure water quality parameters. The REU participant will work within a team of undergraduate and graduate researchers who will be doing parallel assessments of wetland ecological functioning and services. Using the results of the indicator taxon survey, the REU will evaluate whether restored wetlands are functionally similar to natural wetlands, and what influence management history of the restored wetland, connectivity to other wetlands, and time since restoration have on the wetland ecology. Based on the results of the research, the student will also suggest some management guidelines, best practices, or research directions that may improve the success of wetland restoration projects at restoring natural wetland ecological functioning and wetland ecological services.