Researcher Worries About Wetlands
According to a MU press release Under the new requirements, waters can only be protected if there is a "significant nexus" between the stream or wetland and a traditional waterway. Ray Semlitsch, a Biology professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said this change threatens isolated, non-permanent streams and wetlands, which he says are important for amphibians. Semlitsch's research focuses on amphibians that live in seasonal wetlands and headwater streams. He believes the new EPA guidance will endanger the unique animals and plants that live in them.
"It also muddies the issue of defining a 'significant nexus,' which should be biologically defined by the organism using these habitats and their importance for ecosystem function, not by regulators determining if it's navigable," Semlitsch said. "Some of the most important seasonal wetlands and headwater streams for amphibians and a host of other organisms are not even discernible at certain seasons of the year and will easily be overlooked and destroyed."
According to an EPA publication, wetlands "clean the water, recharge water supplies, reduce flood risks and provide fish and wildlife habitats. In addition, wetlands provide recreational opportunities, aesthetic benefits, sites for research and education and commercial fishery benefits."
"Wetlands play many important roles, from acting as natural water storage and purification centers to being homes for a great diversity of plants and animals," Semlitsch said. "Isolated wetlands and headwater streams are important because they're home to certain types of biodiversity not found elsewhere, especially not in navigable waterways. We need to protect wetlands and streams because they're essential sources of biodiversity, amphibian biomass for the food web, and because they provide important benefits to us."