RScrib at PURDUENC.EDU
Fri Mar 16 08:46:53 CST 2001
I have followed the threads on where surveys should be done now over the last week or so and have the following comments. I agree with much of what Robert Mesibov has said.
In Northwest Indiana which is under strong development pressure as the new suburbia of Chicago there are hundreds of small wetlands dotting the landscape. Five years of surveying myself along with a number of other organizations such as the Nature Conservancy with very little funding have shown that many of these small sedge meadows and wet prairies harbor amazing species diversity to say nothing of possible genetic diversity of importance in conservation. The strong push now is to develop large wetland mitigation banks so that developers can just buy credits for wetlands they will fill. This speeds up the turn around time on permit applications which agencies such as ARCOE are under pressure to do. There seems to be this general feeling that these small wetlands are "not salvageable" and that a bigger wetland mitigation all in one place is better. The proposed location for banking is pretty much a dense stand comprised of mostly Phragmites and Typha. Can these large generic mitigation banks possibly replace the type of diversity seen in these small wetlands that are all so individually unique with different water chemistries and substrate types? I do not buy this and have been involved in a number of projects where wetlands as small as an acre have been preserved very successfully in an urban landscape. But to save them we need to have the ability to survey them before it is too late.
Unfortunately, there is no money to hire taxonomists to properly examine sites in danger of destruction. Many sedge meadow type habitats are filled before anyone even knows about it since they simply look like grassy meadows in midsummer. The touted answer are rapid assessments (which millions are being spent on) where a group of meagerly trained volunteers go out and try to assess wetland value with little knowledge of flora and even less of fauna.
Consultants who delineate these wetlands typically only report those species comprising 20 percent or more of a vegetation layer (because that is what the delineation manual requires) so many rare species are not even included. In an ideal world these consultants should report rare species but these surveys often are one day or several hour affairs that are not likely to turn up this information. There is also the "vested interest" issue since consultants are being paid by a developer to carry out the study. I have been consulting on wetlands for almost twenty years so have first hand experience with these issues. Surveys should be done by independent groups.
Lakes are another big problem in terms of biodiversity. There is no money to do biodiversity surveys but there is millions of dollars for management projects such as constructing seawalls, herbicide application etc..,. We are wiping things out before we even know they are there. Try getting funding for this kind of survey work. The usual answer (from NSF and others) is "well hasn't that all been done before"? Even agencies such as DNR have little money for plant survey studies. If you are talking about invertebrates you mas as well forget it.
Nevertheless, as Robert has said, we see substantial funding for biodiversity studies in national parks and other preserved habitats that are not under immediate threat of destruction. I understand the value of knowing what is currently and historically in these habitats in terms of planning restoration on other sites but it won't do us much good if all of the other sites are gone.
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