What is it?
To mitigate means to compensate for a loss, in this case, the damage caused to wetlands. When developers apply for permits to build on protected wetlands, they can comply with environmental regulations by purchasing wetland “credits” to offset the negative impacts. These credits go toward paying for the maintenance and upkeep of a wetland bank, or a nearby wetland site.
In Florida, the law states that these wetland banks should “emphasize the restoration and enhancement of degraded ecosystems and the preservation of uplands and wetlands as intact ecosystems rather than alteration of landscapes to create wetlands. This is best accomplished through restoration of ecological communities that were historically present.” However, a study done in 2007 for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reported that fewer than half of the mitigation banks reviewed had achieved the goals required by their permits.
Why it matters
Research has shown that as natural wetlands are dredged, filled, and replaced with mitigation banks, biodiversity is threatened, especially so for amphibians. This is because mitigation banking often results in small, isolated wetlands being replaced by one large wetland bank, something known as consolidation.
Consolidation of wetlands leads to the loss of pathways that connect wildlife habitats, loss of diversity of wetland types, and greater numbers of nuisance species. Amphibians, birds, aquatic snakes, and turtles require a diversity of wetland types in close proximity to maintain species diversity.
What you can do
- Stay informed about recent changes to land buying policy in Florida.
- Volunteer to remove litter from your local wetlands.
- Participate in citizen science projects to collect data from wetlands.
- See where mitigation banks are located in Florida
- Share your thoughts about the importance of wetlands with your legislators.