Quantifying the value and risk of restoring wetland habitats in agricultural landscapes - Year two
Wetlands provide critical habitat and valuable ecosystem services. Land use conversion in Ontario, however, has led to substantial wetland loss. The restoration of wetlands on agricultural properties has the potential to offset wetland loss, yet these wetlands are also susceptible to contamination by pesticides. Our research will therefore establish: (1) to what degree restored wetlands retain pesticides, (2) whether restored wetlands with varying concentrations of pesticides support wildlife, specifically aquatic invertebrates, and (3) whether invertebrates that disperse through the terrestrial landscape can differentiate between contaminated and uncontaminated aquatic habitats. We expect that restored wetlands in agricultural settings will accumulate pesticides, and will be low quality habitat (i.e., sinks) for sensitive insect species, which will not be able to preferentially choose uncontaminated habitats. However, we also expect that less sensitive species will not be greatly impacted by pesticide load, and may therefore benefit from restored wetlands. This project will allow the postdoctoral applicant to apply her current research interests in the assembly of aquatic communities to a conservation issue. Our work will also benefit Ducks Unlimited Canada, who are evaluating the risk of pesticides to wetland function, and who can redirect restoration strategies and methodologies based on our results.