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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Phosphorus and Nitrogen and Carbon, OH MY! The role of wetlands in mitigating pollutants in our landscape and globe

May 5, 2016, 1:00pm - 2:00pm
151 Riedl Hall, Mansfield Campus

A special lecture presentation by William J. Mitsch, PhD, Eminent Scholar and Director, Everglades Wetland Research Park, Sproul Chair for Southwest Florida Habitat Restoration and Management Florida Gulf Coast University, Naplesn Florida, and Editor-in-Chief, Ecological Engineering. Mitsch will present Phosphorus and Nitrogen and Carbon, OH MY!  The role of wetlands in mitigating pollutants in our landscape and globe.

The world is faced with unprecedented threats to our aquatic ecosystems from excessive nutrients, caused by agricultural and urban runoff and discharges. Fully 750 aquatic ecosystems suffer from degraded ecosystem services with impairments described as hypoxia, dead zones, and harmful algal blooms, most due to pollution caused by excessive nitrogen and phosphorus. Also, we have increased the atmospheric pool of carbon by 40% since industrial times leading to several impacts related to climate change. In the meantime, it has been estimated that, on a global scale, we have lost half of our original wetlands to our current extent of 8 to 12 million km2, most of that loss in the 20th century. I am proposing here a sizeable increase in our wetland resources around the world, solving the diminishing wetland problem, with the strategic purpose of minimizing the excess phosphorus, nitrogen, and carbon in our rural landscapes in a sustainable fashion. Examples include attempts to minimize phosphorus inflows to the Florida Everglades with wetlands to quite low concentrations and a proposal to restore the Black Swamp in NW Ohio to minimize eutrophication of Lake Erie in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Nitrogen retention by wetlands and riparian forests in Midwestern USA has been proposed for 15 years as a solution to the seasonal hypoxia in the northern portion of the Gulf of Mexico. Finally the case of wetlands being carbon sinks through carbon sequestration will be presented in the context of mitigating human-caused increases of CO2 in the atmosphere, with the full understanding that greenhouse gas CH4 emissions typical of most wetland ecosystems need to be taken into account.

This event is sponsored by the Mansfield campus as part of their Ecolab Initiative.