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Clarkson researchers received grant to study wetland restoration impacts

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POTSDAM - A Clarkson University research team has received a $390,000 grant to study the ecological, social and economic impacts wetland restorations have on surrounding areas.

The project, awarded to Clarkson by the University of Michigan Water Center, will examine the effectiveness of wetlands restoration projects on 50 private properties across northern New York. The project was one of eight the UM Water Center funded nationwide, totaling $2.9 million, which aim to increase landowner participation in such programs.

The Clarkson team - Associate Professor of Biology Tom Langen, Biology Professor Michael Twiss and Associate Professor of Economics and Financial Studies Martin Heintzelman - will examine whether wetlands projects that successfully restore wildlife correlate with higher property values and homeowner satisfaction.

“We’re trying to look at these programs beyond their typical measure of success, to the ecological services they provide,” Langen said. “There’s some skepticism when you restore a wetland whether it functions as well as a real wetland. Our question is, do they?”

The research requires collaboration across disciplines, Langen explained. Syracuse University Sociology Professor Rick Welsh and Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor David Chandler are also collaborating.

“You can’t be looking at these issues purely from an environmental science basis or a social science basis or an economic basis,” Langen said. “You have to be working together. You have to understand not only how the environment feeds back on human qualities of life, but also understand how humans feed back on the environment.”

Studying restorations from an economic approach will provide more insight into their success, according to Heintzelman.

“While it is critical to understand how successful man-made wetlands are at mimicking the ecosystem services provided by natural wetlands, it is equally important to understand the human dimension,” Heintzelman said. “My specific role is to look at how wetlands are capitalized (or not) into property values and, in particular, how different wetland characteristics and their overall ecological integrity feed into this capitalization.”

The Water Center is part of the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute and is supported by funds from the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation and the University of Michigan. The Water Center has provided more than $3.4 million in research funds since it formed last October with an initial focus on the Great Lakes, working closely with academic colleagues and resource managers to improve restoration outcomes.

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