Wetlandscape size thresholds for ecosystem service delivery: Evidence from the Norrström drainage basin, Sweden

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Feb 20;704:135452. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.135452. Epub 2019 Nov 21.


Wetlands are interconnected with the larger surrounding landscape through the hydrological cycling of water and waterborne substances. Therefore, the borders of individual wetlands may not be appropriate landscape system boundaries for understanding large-scale functions and ecosystem services of wetlandscapes (wetland network - landscape systems), and how these can be impacted by climate and land-use changes. Recognizing that such large-scale behaviours may not be easily predicted by simple extrapolation of individual wetland behaviours, we here investigate properties of 15 Swedish wetlandscapes in the extensive (22 650 km2) Norrström drainage basin (NDB) comprising as many as 1699 wetlands. Results based on wetland survey data in combination with GIS-based ecohydrological analyses showed that wetlands located in wetlandscapes above a certain size (in the NDB: ~250 km2) consistently formed networks with characteristics required to support key ecosystem services such as nutrient/pollutant retention and biodiversity support. This was in contrast to smaller wetlandscapes (<250 km2), which had smaller and less diverse wetlands with insufficient throughflow to significantly impact large-scale flows of water and nutrients/pollutants. The existence of such wetlandscape-size thresholds is consistent with scale-dependent flow accumulation patterns in catchments, suggesting likely transferability of this result also to other regions.

Keywords: Biodiversity support; Ecohydrological characteristics; Nutrient retention; Wetland function; Wetland management; Wetlandscape.