America’s wetlands constitute a vital part of its environment and ecosystems. Wetlands are land areas where water covers the soil or is near the surface, supporting the growth of plants and wildlife habitats. They also act as carbon sinks, absorbing more carbon than they produce. Because the benefits of wetlands cannot be overstated, it is necessary to invest in wetland conservation efforts.  

Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) invested $50 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to fund wetland conservation through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP). WREP aims to help agricultural producers adopt conservation strategies by receiving funding from the government. However, since the program is voluntary, more action may be needed to incentivize and support conservation.  

Greater innovation is needed to improve conservation efforts. While preserving vital resources and ecological diversity, our country demands new, efficient infrastructure. The American Conservation Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental action through innovation and limited government action, outlines potential solutions to these challenges. They propose increased research and development, clean energy infrastructure, and blue carbon investment. Blue carbon refers to carbon dioxide stored in coastal and marine ecosystems, such as wetlands. This challenge of building clean energy infrastructure and preserving wetlands necessitates innovative solutions, which is where Artificial intelligence (AI) comes in.  

AI holds enormous potential for advancing future conservation efforts. It can recommend restoration techniques based on evolving climate data analyses, and using natural language processing, it can analyze large amounts of data that would otherwise be time-consuming to analyze manually. This can enhance public perception of conservation topics by using accessible language. And it isn’t just theoretical. The Chesapeake Conservatory recently pioneered a new AI model designed for preserving wetlands. This model maps and identifies wetlands, helping companies avoid them when creating new projects. When it was released in 2023, the model yielded 94 percent accuracy 

AI has already been used in conservation efforts elsewhere. In Kenya, AI has been used to promote forest management. Results indicate that AI is a promising new technology, but further research and development are needed to increase its success and reliability. A new app in development, Trout Spotter, uses AI to read markings on trout skin. This allows for easier study of the species and monitoring for preservation purposes.  

The implementation of AI is not without challenges. One challenge is the lack of available data and outdated information required to train AI effectively. Models require retraining to avoid bias and inaccuracy, which can be difficult with decades-old databases. This is yet another example of why investment in research and development is vital for the conservation of natural resources and the production of infrastructure. One possible solution is the creation of centralized data platforms, which can share knowledge between researchers and train AI. 

Using AI for more applications, including wetland conservation, allows us to optimize our resources efficiently while strengthening our cities’ infrastructure and investing in a clean energy future. We should not shy away from new methods of innovation, especially in a time that will impact the state of the planet for generations to come. 


Written by Nora Priede von Herber, Public Policy Intern

The Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure (Aii) is an independent, national research and educational organization. An innovative think tank, Aii explores the intersection of economics, law, and public policy in the areas of climate, damage prevention, energy, infrastructure, innovation, technology, and transportation.