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Woods Environmental Forum: Buying and Selling Freshwater Ecosystems
The Promise and Pitfalls of Restoration and Mitigation in the Management of Freshwaters
Please join us for a research presentation on May 30 with Emily Berhardt, Associate Professor of Biogeochemistry and Director of Graduate Studies, Ecology PhD Program, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University.
We increasingly recognize the value of services provided to humans by natural freshwater ecosystems, with new programs being developed to remediate and restore value to historically degraded wetlands, rivers and coasts through government regulation or ecosystem service markets. Unfortunately our ability to trade or sell natural capital credits is advancing far more rapidly than our empirical understanding of how ecosystems can be managed to produce these commodities and how to appropriately measure and quantify this natural capital. In this data vacuum, a limited set of restoration approaches have become widely used, accepted and often required by regulators without sufficient evidence that these well meaning efforts are in fact achieving their intended goals. To fully engage in the political process that requires and funds restoration and mitigation markets freshwater scientists must evolve from describing pathways of degradation and critiquing modern restoration projects towards building ecologically rigorous design scenarios. I will use examples from my own research to illustrate several key research challenges for freshwater science. More diverse and creative approaches are required in order to restore multiple ecosystem services. The scale of ecosystem mitigation projects must be matched to that of the degradation they are intended to offset. Attempts to return to past conditions are unlikely to succeed without accounting for directional climate and land use change.