Wetland Loss, 404 Wetland Permitting and Wetland Mitigation Banking in Florida

Scholar Article References: SpringerLink “Wetlands”

1. Evaluation of permit success in wetland mitigation banking: A Florida case study

By Kelly Chinners Reiss, Erica Hernandez & Mark T. Brown

With the recent Final Compensatory Mitigation Rule by the US Army Corps of Engineers and US Environmental Protection Agency, wetland mitigation banking has been designated as the preferred means of compensatory mitigation after avoidance and minimization of wetland impacts. Permits and supporting documents were reviewed and site visits conducted at 29 Florida wetland mitigation banks to assess their permit-based success. Just over half of the banks included three or more ecological criteria in permit success requirements. Release of a majority of potential credits (60–75%) was strongly based on completion of activities (e.g. conservation easement, financial assurance, ditch filling). A review of bank compliance suggested that over 40% of banks had reached final success criteria or were clearly trending towards success, but that 17% of the banks were not trending towards success. Most banks were deemed successful according to permit criteria and compliance considerations, although permit criteria were not explicitly tied to ecological considerations. While permit success criteria may have been met, it was unclear what level of functional performance wetland mitigation banks provided.

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2. A spatial-temporal analysis of section 404 wetland permitting in Texas and Florida: Thirteen years of impact along the coast

By Samuel D. Brody, Stephen E. Davis, Wesley E. Highfield & Sarah P. Bernhardt

Over the past 200 years, an estimated 53% (about 47 million ha) of the original wetlands in the conterminous United States have been lost, mainly as a result of various human activities. Despite the importance of wetlands (particularly along the coast), and a longstanding federal policy framework meant to protect their integrity, the cumulative impact on these natural systems over large areas is poorly understood. We address this lack of research by mapping and conducting descriptive spatial analyses of federal wetland alteration permits (pursuant to section 404 of the Clean Water Act) across 85 watersheds in Florida and coastal Texas from 1991 to 2003. Results show that more than half of the permits issued in both states (60%) fell under the Nationwide permitting category. Permits issued in Texas were typically located outside of urban areas (78%) and outside 100-year floodplains (61%). More than half of permits issued in Florida were within urban areas (57%) and outside of 100-year floodplains (51%). The most affected wetlands types were estuarine in Texas (47%) and palustrine in Florida (55%). We expect that an additional outcome of this work will be an increased awareness of the cumulative depletion of wetlands and loss of ecological services in these urbanized areas, perhaps leading to increased conservation efforts.

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3. Isolated Wetland Loss and Degradation Over Two Decades in an Increasingly Urbanized Landscape

By Lisa A. McCauley, David G. Jenkins & Pedro F. Quintana-Ascencio

Urbanization is a leading cause of species loss in the United States because of habitat destruction and fragmentation. Wetlands can be affected by urbanization and the condition of wetlands can be compared across land use categories. Cypress domes are isolated wetlands dominated by cypress (Taxodium distichum) and often remain in urban areas. The purpose of this study was to quantify the effects of urbanization on cypress dome number, size and spatial pattern through two decades of rapid urbanization in Orlando, Florida, a large city in the southeastern US. Over 3,000 cypress domes, in a region typical of urban growth in the cypress range, were identified in images from 1984. Over a 20-year period, 26 % were destroyed or degraded (i.e., no longer cypress-dominated) and almost half in managed forests were degraded, destroyed, or became surrounded by urban or agricultural land uses. The smallest and largest cypress domes were lost, leaving only medium-sized wetlands and decreasing landscape-level diversity. Despite the fact that these wetlands are common and partially protected by legislation, cypress in isolated wetlands may be at risk from urbanization.

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