The relationship between land use and the ecological integrity of isolated wetlands in the Dougherty Plain, Georgia, USA
Stuber, Ouida Stribling
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Geographically isolated wetlands are common features of the Dougherty Plain physiographic region in southwestern Georgia. Due to a lack of protection at the state and federal levels, these wetlands are threatened by agricultural and silvicultural land use common in the region. To examine relationships between land use and wetland ecological integrity, I quantified historic and current land use within and among isolated wetlands, characterized biotic and environmental variables associated with major land use classes, and described seed bank composition of agricultural wetlands. Intensification of land use over six decades likely resulted in the loss of > 50% of wetlands as suitable habitat for wetland flora and fauna. Wetlands influenced by agriculture were the most degraded, and were associated with high cover of exotic species and elevated nutrient levels. Seed banks in agricultural wetlands are largely dominated by herbaceous species, many of which are native and which are associated with wetlands.