Wetlands are one of the most important watershed microtopographic features that affect hydrologic processes (e.g., routing) and the fate and transport of constituents (e.g., sediment and nutrients). Efforts to conserve existing wetlands and/or to restore lost wetlands require that watershed-level effects of wetlands on water quantity and water quality be quantified. Because monitoring approaches are usually cost or logistics prohibitive at watershed scale, distributed watershed models such as the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), enhanced by the hydrologic equivalent wetland (HEW) concept developed by Wang [Wang, X., Yang, W., Melesse, A.M., 2008. Using hydrologic equivalent wetland concept within SWAT to estimate streamflow in watersheds with numerous wetlands. Trans. ASABE 51 (1), 55-72.], can be a best resort. However, there is a serious lack of information about simulated effects using this kind of integrated modeling approach. The objective of this study was to use the HEW concept in SWAT to assess effects of wetland restoration within the Broughton's Creek watershed located in southwestern Manitoba, and of wetland conservation within the upper portion of the Otter Tail River watershed located in northwestern Minnesota. The results indicated that the HEW concept allows the nonlinear functional relations between watershed processes and wetland characteristics (e.g., size and morphology) to be accurately represented in the models. The loss of the first 10-20% of the wetlands in the Minnesota study area would drastically increase the peak discharge and loadings of sediment, total phosphorus (TP), and total nitrogen (TN). On the other hand, the justifiable reductions of the peak discharge and loadings of sediment, TP, and TN in the Manitoba study area may require that 50-80% of the lost wetlands be restored. Further, the comparison between the predicted restoration and conservation effects revealed that wetland conservation seems to deserve a higher priority while both wetland conservation and restoration may be equally important.
Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.