Trading wetlands no longer a deal with the devil

7 February 2013

Debra Levey Larson. Author of this post.

If Faust had been in the business of trading wetlands rather than selling his soul, the devil might be portrayed by the current guidelines for wetland restoration. Research from the University of Illinois recommends a new framework that could make Faustian bargains over wetland restoration sites result in more environmentally positive outcomes.

University of Ilinois ecologist Jeffrey Matthews explained that, under the current policies, if a wetland is scheduled for development and a negative impact is unavoidable, the next option is to offset, or compensate, for the destruction through restoration of a wetland or creation of a new wetland somewhere else. Although the policies previously specified that it be a nearby wetland, regulatory agencies have begun favoring mitigation banking that does not ensure that a wetland with equivalent characteristics to the one being destroyed will be preserved.

“Currently destruction of wetlands can be offset by restoration of wetlands quite a distance away from the wetland that was destroyed,” said Matthews. “It’s usually within the same large watershed, but if the upper reaches of the watershed up along the small headwater streams are being destroyed and replaced by larger mitigation banks that are perhaps on larger rivers downstream, the species that are characteristic of those small headwater streams may not be the type of species that tend to occur in those larger, main-stem high-order streams.” Like Faust’s pact, it may not represent an equivalent trade. “A lot of smaller, unique wetlands in a watershed might be traded for one large homogeneous wetland,” he said. Read more »

Deema’s ducks relocated

7 February 2013

Deema “3” Lake (Emirates Living) (Photo: Bill Harding)

Ducks are a big issue in small lakes and artificial ponds – as Droplets has commented on many times.  The more artificial the pond and the more extreme the climate and water quality conditions, the bigger and more negative the impact of too many waterfowl will be.  Back in 2011 I posted some data on just how much phosphorus gulls and similar birds can produce in a day.

In Dubai, at the prestigious Emirates Living development, all of the ponds are very artificial and without high level management, ducks are likely to make a tenuous situation a lot worse.  Of course, creating a whole lot of areas of water surface in a desert will obviously attract waterfowl – and management priorities and protocols need to be sensitive to this and adapt accordingly.   The ducks at Deema 3 Lake, however, are to be moved, per a report today by  As the article notes, “if duck levels are managed at proper levels…”

To ‘alum’ or not to ‘alum’ ?

7 February 2013

Chemical dosing of a lake using a helicopter (Photo: Bill Harding)

Most lake managers are aware of the importance of keeping in-lake phosphorus levels to the absolute minimum possible – and to ensure that this is managed at the source of the problem, not once the nutrient is already in the lake.  Once in the lake, nutrient attenuation (unless the lake is quite small and shallow) is generally very difficult.  Prevention is always better than ‘end of pipe’ cures – but this is a lesson that is not easily learnt  in the field of lake management! Read more »

Trust me, I’m an expert …. sage advice for aquatic scientists to heed

7 February 2013

Author of this post, Martyn Kelly (Source: Bowburn Consultancy website)

A few years ago, I was involved in a project financed by the UK water industry.  The project brief was to look at the benefits of phosphorus removal on British rivers. Huge sums of money had been spent on this in recent years but there has been little obvious ecological change as a result.   One of the questions we were asked to address is whether the standards for phosphorus concentrations in UK rivers were appropriate.  However, as the project went on a second agenda came to the fore: how can we (the water industry) “sell” the idea of low phosphorus concentrations to our customers?

Diatoms were at the centre of this mini-storm: they had a strong relationship with the nutrient gradient in UK rivers and were consequently used to establish the values for the standards.  But the water industry had put their finger on a key problem: the word “diatoms” meant nothing to the general public.  They could walk beside a river, look over a bridge, see water plants, even the occasional trout.  The river did not necessarily look polluted and, for the most part, no longer had the faint odour of putrefaction hanging over it as in the past.  You might draw the line at swimming in it but, equally, you could see no particular reason why you were being asked to pay £20 per year more in order that the water company could install more sophisticated wastewater treatment facilities.  Read more »

Dimwits and ducks

5 February 2013

Photo: Bill Harding

Droplets has been quiet for a few days – it is sometimes hard to get motivated in a country that appears to be run either by the terminally-stupid or those focussed only on enriching themselves at the taxpayers expense.  Added to this is the continual use of outdated communist-speak and blaming all the woes and inadequacies of the past 18 years on what happened before that.  And then there is the near-total lack of spines – and here I am referring to the mass kowtowing to government whims. When will it end?  Read more »