Officials: One-third of Minnesota wetlands in fair, poor health

Carlos Avery wildlife area
Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area near Forest Lake includes about 23,000 acres, two-thirds of which is wetlands.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News

Wetlands in Minnesota's northeast and north-central regions are in mostly great shape, but it's a much different story in southern Minnesota, where farm runoff and invasive species post a significant to wetland biology.

Those are the conclusions of two reports published Thursday by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Overall, researchers found 33 percent of the state's 10 million-plus acres of wetlands in fair or poor condition. These are places where vegetation is degraded and native plants are being replaced by cattails and other non-native invasive plants, the agency said.

"Excess phosphorus and nitrogen levels from runoff pose a significant threat to the biological integrity of these wetlands," Michael Bourdaghs, MPCA research scientist and author of the report on overall vegetation quality, said in a statement.

The agency released its findings ahead of Saturday's 2015 waterfowl hunting opener, noting that the health of a wetland's vegetation can affect its quality as a habitat for ducks, geese, insects, and other animals.

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