We evaluated how three widths of buffer zones on ≥100-ha wetlands (240 m, 300 m, 390 m) and rivers (10 m, 20 m, 30 m) would help meet watershed conservation goals in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, USA and whether doing so also would protect each of the predominant types of terrestrial natural communities across the landscape. The use of buffer zones (even the narrowest widths assessed) around wetlands and riparian zones met or exceeded conservation targets in 75% of watersheds and ≥85% of subwatersheds evaluated. Wetlands and riparian zones with buffers captured each of the predominant types of terrestrial ecosystem in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but not proportionately to their availability across the entire landscape. Our work demonstrates that a landscape-conservation approach focused on wetlands and riparian zones with buffers can conserve terrestrial, wetland, and riparian ecosystems across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and may also be applicable in other areas where wetlands and rivers are mapped.

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