Restoring wetlands near farms would dramatically reduce water pollution

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Targeted wetland restoration in heavily farmed areas would dramatically reduce the amount of nitrogen polluting rivers, lakes and coastal areas, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo and the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) examined detailed data on wetland locations and nitrogen loads from fertilizer on farm fields throughout the United States.

In results published today in the journal Nature, computer modeling showed that prioritizing wetland restoration close to heavily farmed areas would remove up to 40 times more nitrogen than the current ad hoc approach.

Nandita Basu“You get much more bang for your buck if wetland preservation and restoration are targeted,” said Nandita Basu, a professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Civil and Environmental Engineering at Waterloo, and corresponding author of the paper. “From a policy perspective, it is dramatically more effective and efficient.”

Nitrogen enters rivers in runoff from agricultural lands and is carried on to lakes and oceans, where it feeds algae growth, reduces oxygen levels, limits biodiversity and causes significant economic harm. Wetlands play an important role in its removal.

Read the full story on Waterloo Stories.