In this research project we use statistical methods to assess the contribution of wetlands to ecosystem services at large-scales, specifically assessing the effect of wetlands on nutrient retention and flow regulation. Wetlands are often claimed to provide useful ecosystem services. While this may be true at local scales, it is important to understand the large-scale effects of multiple wetlands distributed throughout the landscape.

Our study areas are the North and South Baltic Water Management Districts in Sweden. We use official sources of data on wetland occurrence, nutrient loading and run-off to carry out our analyses. For nutrient loading to the Baltic Sea, no nutrient retention effects of wetlands at large-scales are detectable. For flow regulation, we use flow variability as a proxy indicator. Some effect by downstream wetlands in particular is detectable. However, in both these cases we show that other landscape features have a comparatively larger effect at large-scales. These other landscape features include, for example, lakes and the transport distance to the sea along the flow network.

These results show that it is necessary to take into consideration scale effects before making claims about the usefulness of wetlands in providing ecosystem services such as nutrient retention and flow regulation.

Other participating researchers of the unit: Georgia Destouni and Fernando Jaramillo

Left: Limnogenous wetland, Lidingö, Sweden. Right: Bog, Vaxholm, Sweden
Left: Limnogenous wetland, Lidingö, Sweden. Right: Bog, Vaxholm, Sweden