Biology Professor Jon Evans gave an invited presentation at the 2017 Regional Wetlands/Section 401 Workshop: Ecological Endpoints: from Reference to Restoration held in Gatlinburg, TN last week. His talk entitled: Vernal Pools: Aquatic Islands of Biodiversity on the Cumberland Plateau was drawn from his recently published paper in the journal Wetlands where Evans and his co-authors from the Biology Department show how an extensive network of small forested wetlands on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia are being threatened by loss of forest habitat.
The workshop was attended by water resources permit writers and enforcement officers from EPA Region 4 (KY, AL, MS, TN, NC, SC, FL, and tribes) who are responsible for developing and implementing wetlands policy in the southeastern United States. At the workshop, Evans met with wetland scientists from the U.S. EPA and TN Department of Environment and Conservation to discuss how his vernal pool database for the Cumberland Plateau can be used to extend governmental protection to this unique network of wetlands.
This vernal pool research comes at a critical time for wetlands protection in this country. In association with the 2015 EPA Clean Water Rule, research that defines a network of vernal pools is necessary for establishing protection for this special class of wetlands under the Clean Water Act. However, such future protection at the federal level has been put in jeopardy by a recent EPA decision to suspend and rescind the Clean Water Rule. At the state level, Tennessee’s Water Quality Control Act affords protection to vernal pools and Sewanee’s database of more than 1800 pools on the Cumberland Plateau will now be used by TDEC to assist conservation efforts of this special wetland habitat.