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"New research by an Indiana University scientist reveals the value of restoring wetlands and riparian habitat on agricultural lands. The study is among the first to demonstrate the water quality benefits of converting farmland back to natural habitats. A team of scientists, led by Christopher Craft from IU Bloomington's School of Public and Environmental Affairs, measured soil processes such as de-nitrification and phosphorus sorption. Those processes improve water quality by removing excess nutrients from agricultural runoff. The restoration of these habitats under two programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture helped prevent pollutants from entering local water supplies, Craft said...Potential benefits of restoration include improved water quality locally and regionally as well as reducing the impact of farm runoff on the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. The dead zone is a large area in the northern gulf where a surge in chemical nutrients flowing out of Midwest farms has been blamed for diminished oxygen levels in the water. That in turn has damaged the fishing and shrimping industries. The potential benefits of wetland and riparian habitat restoration extend worldwide, Craft said. "This is particularly important considering that as global population and agricultural production increase around the world, global nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizer use are predicted to increase significantly," he said."

Posted June 7th, 2013