Until recently it was thought the best thing to do with a marsh was to drain it and put it to use as dry land for farming or development. Now, wetlands are recognized for their value in flood reduction, water purification, and wildlife habitat. Since 1982 more than 400,000 hectares almost one million acres of fresh and saltwater wetlands have been restored in the U.S., and plans are to double that in the next ten years.
Professor Joy Zedler of the University of Wisconsin studied a reconstructed marsh near San Diego for more than ten years and found that while it does some good for wildlife, it does not fulfill its primary purpose, which was to provide habitat for the endangered lightfooted clapper rail. We spoke with Professor Zedler about some of the finer points of rebuilding natural ecosystems.