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Managing Wetlands

An Ecological Economics Approach

Edited by R. Kerry Turner, Jeroen C.J.M. van den Bergh and Roy Brouwer

The extensive destruction of wetlands across Europe represents a significant loss of biodiversity along with its related economic, cultural, ethical and scientific benefits. This volume addresses the critical issues surrounding this environmental change process, employing a range of analytical methods drawn from a variety of disciplines which bridge the social and natural science divide.
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Chapter 7: Environmental and Economic Assessment of the Location of Wetland Buffers in the Landscape for Nutrient Removal from Agricultural Runoff

M. Blackwell and E. Maltby


M. Blackwell and E. Maltby 1 INTRODUCTION In Europe, wetland degradation and loss has been prolific in the last century, largely as a result of increasing agricultural development and pollution (Jones and Hughes, 1993) with little regard to conservationist arguments for protection because of, for example, habitat and species rarity. However, because of the observed loss of many ecological and hydrological services formerly provided for free by wetlands and the consequent environmental and economic costs of this loss, wetland protection and conservation has become an internationally important issue (Maltby et al., 1992). In any wetland a number of processes may be occurring to a greater or lesser extent. These may be of a physical, chemical, biological or ecological nature and examples of such processes include water storage, denitrification and plant uptake of nutrients. As a consequence of such processes, wetlands provide valuable goods and services. The process of water storage gives a wetland the function of flood attenuation, while the processes of denitrification and plant nutrient uptake may contribute to water quality maintenance through the removal of nutrients from surface water and shallow groundwater. Plant uptake of nutrients may also result in the performance of other functions such as support of the food web and wildlife habitat, demonstrating that an individual process may contribute to a variety of wetland functions. This chapter focuses on the value of wetland buffer zones in environmental and economic terms for the removal of NO – (nitrate) from agricultural run3 off. A buffer zone is a...

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