Date of this Version
To date, wetland conservation programs and policies have focused on wetlands primarily as wildlife habitat. In spite of the extensive efforts of wildlife interest groups, wetlands continue to be lost. Successful wetland conservation in North America will require that society, as a whole, perceives broader and more significant values of freshwater wetlands than simply their role as wildlife habitat. Identifying and quantifying the functions of wetlands to the maintenance and renewal of critical freshwater resources are important steps toward expanding the base of support for wetland conservation/restoration programs throughout the continent. This paper introduces the functions and values of prairie wetlands related to the quantity and quality of fresh water. Subsequent papers in this issue evaluate the current state of our knowledge of these functions and values, identify priority information needs, and make specific recommendations for the use of this information to enhance wetland conservation restoration programs and policy.