Geographically Isolated Wetlands Are Important Biogeochemical Reactors on the Landscape

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adjacency, biogeochemistry, connectivity, geographically isolated wetlands, wetland protection

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Wetlands provide many ecosystem services, including sediment and carbon retention, nutrient transformation, and water quality improvement. Although all wetlands are biogeochemical hotspots, geographically isolated wetlands (GIWs) receive fewer legal protections compared with other types of wetlands because of their apparent isolation from jurisdictional waters. Here, we consider controls on biogeochemical functions that influence water quality, and estimate changes in ecosystem service delivery that would occur if these landscape features were lost following recent US Supreme Court decisions (i.e., Rapanos, SWANCC). We conclude that, despite their lack of persistent surfacewater connectivity or adjacency to jurisdictional waters, GIWs are integral to biogeochemical processing on the landscape and therefore maintaining the integrity of US waters. Given the likelihood that any GIW contributes to downstream water quality, we suggest that the burden of proof could be shifted to assuming that all GIWs are critical for protecting aquatic systems until proven otherwise.

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BioScience, v. 65, issue 4, p. 408-418