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Journal Article (Peer-Reviewed)
On the human appropriation of wetland primary production. Science of the Total Environment 785.2021.
Humans are changing the Earth's surface at an accelerating pace, with significant consequences for ecosystems and their biodiversity. Landscape transformation has far-reaching implications including reduced net primary production (NPP) available to support ecosystems, reduced energy supplies to consumers, and disruption of ecosystem services such as carbon storage. Anthropogenic activities have reduced global NPP available to terrestrial ecosystems by nearly 25%, but the loss of NPP from wetland ecosystems is unknown. We used a simple approach to estimate aquatic NPP from measured habitat areas and habitat-specific areal productivity in the largest wetland complex on the USA west coast, comparing historical and modern landscapes and a scenario of wetland restoration. Results show that a 77% loss of wetland habitats (primarily marshes) has reduced ecosystem NPP by 94%, C (energy) flow to herbivores by 89%, and detritus production by 94%. Our results also show that attainment of habitat restoration goals could recover 12% of lost NPP and measurably increase carbon flow to consumers, including at-risk species and their food resources. This case study illustrates how a simple approach for quantifying the loss of NPP from measured habitat losses can guide wetland conservation plans by establishing historical baselines, projecting functional outcomes of different restoration scenarios, and establishing performance metrics to gauge success.
Primary Production in the Delta: Then and Now. San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science 14 (3).2016.
To evaluate the role of restoration in the recovery of the Delta ecosystem, we need to have clear targets and performance measures that directly assess ecosystem function. Primary production is a crucial ecosystem process, which directly limits the quality and quantity of food available for secondary consumers such as invertebrates and fish. The Delta has a low rate of primary production, but it is unclear whether this was always the case. Recent analyses from the Historical Ecology Team and Delta Landscapes Project provide quantitative comparisons of the areal extent of 14 habitat types in the modern Delta versus the historical Delta (pre-1850). Here we describe an approach for using these metrics of land use change to: (1) produce the first quantitative estimates of how Delta primary production and the relative contributions from five different producer groups have been altered by large-scale drainage and conversion to agriculture; (2) convert these production estimates into a common currency so the contributions of each producer group reflect their food quality and efficiency of transfer to consumers; and (3) use simple models to discover how tidal exchange between marshes and open water influences primary production and its consumption. Application of this approach could inform Delta management in two ways. First, it would provide a quantitative estimate of how large-scale conversion to agriculture has altered the Delta's capacity to produce food for native biota. Second, it would provide restoration practitioners with a new approach—based on ecosystem function—to evaluate the success of restoration projects and gauge the trajectory of ecological recovery in the Delta region.