U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Why I Love Wetlands

by Carol Petrow

Forested wetland Photo credit: Carol Petrow, EPA

Forested wetland
Photo credit: Carol Petrow, EPA

May is American Wetlands Month which makes it a perfect time to talk about a passion of mine. Wetlands are the vital link between land and water.  What is not to love about them?

EPA proclaims that “Wetlands are natural wonderlands of great value.”  My sentiments exactly! They provide important benefits to people and the environment by regulating water levels within watersheds, reducing flood and storm damage, improving water quality, providing important fish and wildlife habitat, and supporting educational and recreational activities.

To protect and restore our nation’s wetlands, EPA partners with other federal, state, local and tribal governments using regulatory authority as well as non-regulatory approaches, such as developing voluntary restoration and protection programs for wetlands.

With a membership consisting of federal and state regulatory personnel and scientists, the Mid-Atlantic Wetland Workgroup provides a forum for exchanging ideas, information, and strategies to facilitate the development and implementation of state wetlands monitoring and assessment programs that support restoration and protection.  At EPA, we’ve found over the years that, effective approaches to wetland protection engage individuals and communities.  Volunteer monitoring programs empower citizens to become more active stewards of wetlands in their communities.

Tidal marsh wetlands Photo credit: Eric Vance, EPA

Tidal marsh wetland
Photo credit: Eric Vance, EPA

Like people, wetlands come in all different types and sizes.  Some are wet all the time, while others sometimes appear dry.  Some have trees and shrubs, some only grasses or mud.  They can be large or small.  Nearly every county and climatic zone in the country has wetlands – so there are lots of wetlands to love, and you are never far from one of these natural wonderlands. To find a wetland near you, consult your local parks department, state natural resource agency or the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

During May and throughout the year, Learn! Explore! And Take Action to learn about and protect our wetland gems.


About the author: Carol Petrow is the Acting Team Leader of the Wetlands Science Team in the Environmental Assessment and Innovation Division, Office of Monitoring and Assessment.


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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MCnest: Fly Away Home

Flying geese in a "V" formation against a sunset. By Thomas Landreth 

While recent winter weather storms may suggest otherwise, we are getting closer to the time that birds in this hemisphere begin their journey northward. Just like in the 1996 movie, Fly Away Home, last year’s crop of fledglings will begin their first return journey toward mating and nesting grounds.

However, a host of different variables can affect the success of these new populations year after year. Fly Away Home highlights how habitat loss might threaten migrating geese. But what about other, perhaps less obvious factors, such as those affecting bird breeding cycles?

EPA researchers have been working on a digital, easy-to-use model called the Markov Chain Nest Productivity Model, or MCnest, that estimates the impact of pesticide exposures on the reproductive success of bird populations.

MCnest combines existing avian (bird) toxicity test results, species life history information, and the timing of pesticide application(s) with breeding seasons to quantitatively estimate the potential impact of pesticide exposure on annual bird reproductive success.

McNest developer Matthew Etterson said, “This model is an important first step in moving avian pesticide risk assessment forward.”

Future MCnest results that indicate potential adverse affects on avian reproduction may be cited in Agency orders to regulate pesticide use under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and in support of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, and requires federal agencies to ensure that any action they authorize won’t jeopardize listed threatened or endangered species.

Though MCnest is still in its early stages of development, work continues on a more advanced version that will improve exposure estimates and more realistically describe the length of avian breeding seasons.  The researchers are also applying the concepts behind MCnest to develop a model for fish, and a similar model is possible for mammals.

As its capability grows to take in data about more species, MCnest can play a greater role in EPA’s approach to ecological risk assessment. In time, MCnest may provide a greater understanding of pesticides and their impact on wildlife and our environment.

Click here for more information on MCnest, data libraries and program instructions.

About the author: Thomas Landreth is a student services contractor working with EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor’s note: for more information on McNest and other EPA ecosystems-related research, please see the latest edition of our newsletter, “Science Matters.”

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.