Can retaining wetlands in agro-ecosystems mitigate the effects of agricultural intensification on biodiversity?
Agricultural practises in the North American prairies have intensified in the last several decades to increase food production, resulting in the drainage of up to 70% of prairie wetlands in some areas. Not surprisingly agricultural intensification is associated with the loss of biodiversity. Our research aims to assess whether retaining wetlands in agro-ecosystems can mitigate the effects of agricultural intensification on biodiversity, by monitoring wetland-derived insects and the breeding success of birds that depend on wetland-derived insects as prey. Since wetlands in the prairies continue to be lost, research focusing on how wetland retention influences biodiversity in agro-ecosystems is essential for management strategies aimed at conserving biodiversity, while also maintaining agricultural productivity. Research identifying possible co-benefits to agricultural producers and conservation agencies of retaining wetlands could sustain profitability for producers through economic incentives and green marketing opportunities, and the provisioning of ecosystem services by wetlands to society.