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SOUTHEASTERN ECOLOGIST EDITS NEW BOOK ON
WORLD’S LARGEST WETLANDS
HAMMOND – Paul Keddy decided
to compile a book on the world’s largest wetlands after discovering that
no one had previously identified them.
“How can we set priorities
for protecting wetlands,” said Southeastern Louisiana University’s Edward
G. Schlieder Chair in Environmental Studies, “if no one knows where the
bigget ones are? And why can we produce maps of the landscape of Mars,
yet lack a map of the largest wetlands on Earth?”
After working for 10 years
with 22 scholars from 18 institutions in 10 countries, Keddy has answered
the question in “The World’s Largest Wetlands,” published last month by
Cambridge University Press.
The book, co-edited with
the Southeastern wetlands ecologist’s long-time research associate Lauchlan
Fraser of Thompson Rivers University in Canada, is the only single publication
that comprehensively covers all the largest “wet and wild” areas of the
globe. The book’s chapters on the 11 largest wetlands systems were written
by leading experts, including a team from Southeastern, who share their
understanding of the ecological dynamics of the large and fragile areas,
their significance, and the importance of their conservation.
“We are very proud of Dr.
Keddy's accomplishment, and we are growing accustomed to such high quality
and internationally recognized work from him,” said Daniel McCarthy, interim
dean of the College of Science and Technology. “This work is much more
that just a list, but rather is a comprehensive scientific document that
will prove to be an invaluable resource to all scientists involved in wetland
research. It will also serve to inform the public about the environmental
impact and concerns related to wetlands."
Keddy said he initially
was surprised to find that no one had compiled a “top wetlands” list. “I
wanted to include a table of the largest wetlands in one of my other books,”
he said. “I assumed that the work was already done and sitting in a book
or government publication or on the Web somewhere. But when I began phoning
around, I couldn’t find the information. So, I realized I would have to
do it myself.”
To do that, he called upon
the expertise of colleagues worldwide – an international team of leading
experts whose first language, in many cases, was Russian, French, Spanish
or German. Since the scientists had to write in or translate their research
into English, “You can imagine that it took quite a bit of editing,” Keddy
said. “In fact, it was a bit like herding cats.”
“None of the contributors
received any pay,” Keddy added. “They were involved simply because they
believed in the project.”
The book documents that
the world’s largest wetlands is not, as most would think, a tropical rainforest
in South America, but a 620,000 square mile peat bog in western Siberia.
The vast tropical swamp of the Amazon River floodplain is a close second,
while the Mississippi Flood Plain, the wetland area that extends from Ohio
to the mouth of the Mississippi River, is seventh.
The chapter on the Mississippi
Flood Plain was written by Keddy’s Southeastern colleagues, Gary Shaffer
and Dan Campbell, Southeastern graduate student Susanne S. Hoeppner, and
Louisiana State University biology professor James G. Gosselink.
In addition to the Western
Siberian Lowlands in Eurasia, the Amazon River in South America, and the
Mississippi flood plain, Keddy’s list also includes the Hudson Bay Lowland
in northeastern Canada; the Congo River basin, Lake Chad basin and River
Nile basin, all in central Africa; the Mackenzie River basin in northwest
Canada; the Pantanal region in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay; the prairie
potholes in the north central United States and south central Canada; and
Magellanic moorland along the southern tip of South America.
Why was it important to
identify the world’s largest wetlands systems?
Approximately 50 percent
of the world’s wetlands have been lost, Keddy points out in the book’s
preface. “Reduced wetland area,” he said, “causes more flooding in spring,
less available water during drought, greater risk of water pollution, and
less food production and reduced carbon storage.
“The issue of carbon storage,
which may seem obscure, will be of growing importance,” Keddy said. “Large
wetlands can actually reduce the Earth’s temperature by storing the carbon
that drives global warming. In a completely real way, we can say
that the West Siberian Lowland in central Russia is actually reducing the
rates of sea level rise here in Louisiana.”
“Further, by highlighting
all the world’s largest wetlands in one book – wetlands that range across
ecosystem types, international boundaries, and styles of research -- we
aspire to nudge all areas of wetlands ecology and conservation biology
back toward a common view and a common purpose,” Keddy said. The purpose
includes, he added, “ensuring that the world’s wetlands are protected and
managed within a global context.”
For additional information
about “The World’s Largest Wetlands,” visit www.selu.edu/Academics/Faculty/pkeddy