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Watershed Land Use and Local Habitat: Implications for Habitat Assessment

Abstract

Our understanding of anthropogenic stressor effects on wetland biota and ecosystem processes would benefit from better defined relationships between landscape and local stressors. We assessed the connection between watershed land use and local habitat and local disturbance in Great Lakes coastal ecosystems across a full range of anthropogenic stress. In addition, we identified dominant structuring variables, described redundancy, and assessed the relative influence of local versus watershed scale features on local habitat quality with on-site assessments conducted at 143 sample sites. Associations between habitat variables and watershed stressors were found, but only a small proportion of variation was explained. Overall, watershed agriculture was a stronger predictor of local habitat variables than was development. Variance partitioning revealed that disturbance and land use accounted for more variance in habitat than spatial factors or wetland type. This indicates that local and watershed-scale assessments are discrete approaches that document stress at different hierarchical scales and an assumed direct connection between watershed stress and local habitat and disturbance is an over-simplification. Therefore, assessments of stress should include both watershed scale and on-site habitat assessments. Furthermore, these results indicate that local scale mitigation/restoration could minimize negative impacts of changing land use.

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Acknowledgments

We thank field and lab personnel from Natural Resources Research Institute University of Minnesota Duluth and University of Windsor for their assistance in data collection. This project was funded by grants from US Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results (STAR) and Great Lakes (EaGLe) program through funding to the (GLEI) project (R-8286750), and from US Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes National Program Office and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative through funding to the 2nd stage Great Lakes Environmental Indicators (GLEI-II) Indicator Testing and Refinement project (GL-00E00623-0). This document has not been subjected to the Agency’s required peer and policy review, and therefore does not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred. This is contribution number 597 from the Center for Water and the Environment, Natural Resources Research Institute, University of Minnesota Duluth. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Jennifer H. Olker.

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Jennifer H. Olker and Katya E. Kovalenko contributed equally to this work.

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Olker, J.H., Kovalenko, K.E., Ciborowski, J.J.H. et al. Watershed Land Use and Local Habitat: Implications for Habitat Assessment. Wetlands 36, 311–321 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-016-0740-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-016-0740-0

Keywords

  • Multi-level assessment
  • Stressor index
  • Great Lakes coastal ecosystems
  • Habitat degradation