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Wetlands (Wilmington). 2017;37(4):801-806. doi: 10.1007/s13157-017-0887-3.

The Significant Surface-Water Connectivity of "Geographically Isolated Wetlands".

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Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, USA.
Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, US Geological Survey, 8711 37th Street SE, Jamestown, ND 58401, USA.
Office of Research and Development, US Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW (8623-P), Washington, DC 20460, USA.
School of Natural Resource Sciences, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58108, USA.
School of Law, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.
Office of Research and Development, US Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati, OH 45268, USA.
National Wetland Inventory, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Falls Church, VA 22041, USA.
School of Geosciences, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL 33620, USA.
Department of Biological Sciences and Division of Natural Areas, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY 40475, USA.
Wetland and Aquatic Research Center, US Geological Survey, 7920 NW 71st Street, Gainesville, FL 32653, USA.


We evaluated the current literature, coupled with our collective research expertise, on surface-water connectivity of wetlands considered to be "geographically isolated" (sensu Tiner Wetlands 23:494-516, 2003a) to critically assess the scientific foundation of grouping wetlands based on the singular condition of being surrounded by uplands. The most recent research on wetlands considered to be "geographically isolated" shows the difficulties in grouping an ecological resource that does not reliably indicate lack of surface water connectivity in order to meet legal, regulatory, or scientific needs. Additionally, the practice of identifying "geographically isolated wetlands" based on distance from a stream can result in gross overestimates of the number of wetlands lacking ecologically important surface-water connections. Our findings do not support use of the overly simplistic label of "geographically isolated wetlands". Wetlands surrounded by uplands vary in function and surface-water connections based on wetland landscape setting, context, climate, and geographic region and should be evaluated as such. We found that the "geographically isolated" grouping does not reflect our understanding of the hydrologic variability of these wetlands and hence does not benefit conservation of the Nation's diverse wetland resources. Therefore, we strongly discourage use of categorizations that provide overly simplistic views of surface-water connectivity of wetlands fully embedded in upland landscapes.


Clean Water Act; Connectivity; Geographic isolation; Hydrology; Streams; Upland embedded wetlands; Waters of the U.S.

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