Accounting for Wetland Loss: Wetland Mitigation Trends in Northeast Florida 2006–2013

Nisse Goldberg, University of North Florida
Kelly Chinners Reiss, American Public University System


The realization of wetland ‘no net loss’ policy under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act remains uncertain, as mitigation practices force a trade-off in on-site mitigation with loss of biological integrity and off-site mitigation with a redistribution of ecosystem services. Wetlands cover 25 % of the Lower St. Johns River Basin (LSJRB), northeastern Florida, a region impacted by urban development. This case study investigated whether impacted wetland area and type of mitigation differ with land use intensity among the years 2006–2013 from a review of 522 Environmental Resource Permits. A Landscape Development Intensity index was used to compare land use as a function of anthropogenic activity for permitted parcels and mitigation banks. Forested wetlands comprised 47–97 % of impacted wetland area/yr and the majority of parcels and mitigation banks were in mid to high development areas (75 % of area). On-site only mitigation (29 % of permits) and use of mitigation banks (27 %) were more common than off-site only mitigation (20 %). Wetland preservation (880 ha/yr) was more common than wetland creation (9 ha/yr). This study puts into question the ‘no net loss’ wetland policy as urban development contributes to cumulative loss, fragmentation, and re-organization of wetlands across the landscape despite compulsory mitigation.