Muddy waters: letting the Gulf of Mexico breathe again

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Saving the Gulf of Mexico from polluted runoff is possible, but it means creating or restoring at least 5 to 13 million acres of wetlands in the Midwest and the lower Mississippi River basin, according to a new report by environmental researchers.

Led by William Mitsch, a professor of natural resources and environmental science at Ohio State University, the scientists also recommend creating or restoring 19 to 48 million acres of streamside forest areas.

Together, that's at least enough created and restored wetland and forested area to fill all of West Virginia. The report appears in the May issue of the journal Bioscience.

It's estimated that the American Midwest has lost about 80 percent of its wetlands in the last two centuries, compared to a 50 percent loss in the contiguous United States. Wetlands create buffers between agricultural lands and streams and rivers. They also reduce the level of chemicals - agricultural and otherwise - that wash into waterways.

Under current conservation programs, about 577,000 acres of wetlands have already been created or restored. About 10 to 25 times more wetlands are needed to cause a significant reduction of nitrogen levels in the Gulf, said Mitsch.

"There are countless federal programs to help support wetland

Contact: William Mitsch
Ohio State University

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