Wetlands are amazing features of the natural landscape that provide immense benefits for both people and for wildlife. Some of these functions include protecting and improving water quality and purity, providing fish and other wildlife habitats, maintaining surface water flow during dryer periods and storing floodwaters. These are incredibly valuable functions that are the result of the unique characteristics of wetlands.
Wetlands In Nature
Wetlands are incredibly diverse and rich. They are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Their diversity is only comparable to coral reefs and rain forests. There's an immense variety of plants, insects, bacteria, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish and mammals in wetland areas. What's more, the abundance of high quality, high purity fresh water, together with the unique climate, landscape shape, and geology makes wetlands one of the most bio-diverse regions. The relationship among the many inhabitants of wetlands is called a food web and there are many types of food webs, depending on the location and the specific differences between wetlands. This is one of the main reasons why wetlands in North Carolina, Texas, and Alaska are very different.
Wetlands are considered the biological supermarkets of nature. They provide a varied and immense volume of food to various animal species. These animals are an important part of the ecosystem and promote the biological break down in wetlands, promoting further growth. The enriched material feeds small aquatic insects, shellfish and other small fish that are being transformed in food for larger mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Unfortunately, wetlands are now prone to wetland environment erosion which can be avoided with the help of wattlesox.
Why Are Wetlands So Important?
In the past, wetlands were not considered important. In fact, they were considered wastelands and were often avoided. People never had a particular interest in wetlands until the 1950s, when ecology and the importance of this type of ecosystem were better understood. A common practice before this period was to simply drain them, fill them with new soil and turn them into agricultural fields, or were simply considered dumping grounds. This approach was disastrous for wetlands: more than 50 percent of the 221 million acres of wetlands were destroyed from the late 1700s to the early 1990s.
Today, we better understand what wetlands are, how they work and why are they so important to the environment and the public. They offer very important habitats for birds, fish, they purify polluted waters and keep under control the destructive power of floods and droughts. They are also very important areas for recreational opportunities for wildlife observation, photography, fishing, and hunting.
Water Quality – Wetlands act as purifiers for water and filter the sediments; they help absorb pollutants from surface waters; some wetlands also act as cleansing systems for the quality of groundwater; this is especially important because water is used as a supply for cities and towns.
Reduction of Coastal Storm Damage – Wetlands located near coastal areas provide a protective area in case of major storms. For instance, mangrove forests that are common in Southern Florida, act as important protection walls for the interior areas. Also, the salt marshes along the Atlantic and the Gulf Coasts help reduce coastal and wetland environment erosion, flooding and reduce property damage during major storms.
Flood Control – Wetlands located near streams and rivers absorb the energy and store excess water that comes during storms; this reduces the downstream flood damage and the risk of flash floods. The water stored in these wetlands will be released slowly over time, thus helping streams flowing even during excessive drought periods.
Erosion Control and Streambank Stabilization – Wetland environment erosion and excessive sedimentation are prevented by the wetland vegetation which binds the soil on riparian wetlands and streambanks. This phenomenon can be avoided with wattlesox.
Wildlife Habitat – As discussed above, wetlands are incredible habitats for a huge variety of animals: reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds, and mammals, but also insects and bacteria. All these animals are highly adapted to wet environments and thrive in these areas. Animals from other areas often visit wetlands: upland animals, like deer or elk, often go to wetlands in order to forage for food. Wetlands are also critical for migratory bird species. For instance, recent data shows that the flooded bottomland forests and the marshes in the Southern United States are home to more than 50 percent of North American waterfowl during the migratory season.
Fish and Wildlife Habitat – Between 60 to 90 percent of United States fisheries depend on wetlands. They are the nursery grounds for an immense variety of fish species: trout, pike, sunfish, crappie, crabs, shrimps, striped bass and many others.
Habitat for Endangered Species – Wetlands are home to about a third of all plants and animals that are listed as endangered in the United States. These animals and plants depend on wetlands for survival: whooping cranes, the dwarf lake iris, multiple orchid species, and American crocodiles.
Ecosystem Productivity – Wetlands are some of the most productive areas in the world. For instance, a stand of cordgrass located in a salty marsh can produce more natural material and energy per acre than any other crop, except sugar cane. The huge amount of nutrients produced makes wetlands excellent habitats for plants, fish and wildlife, especially in downstream and estuary areas.
Recreational Opportunities – Wetlands provide excellent opportunities for photography, bird watching, sightseeing, hiking, boating, hunting, and fishing. If properly managed, these activities can help people better understand how wetlands work and why they are important. People can easily observe wildlife and how it works in this environment. Wattlesox can be used to protect and zone areas for recreational activities in wetland areas.
Education – Wetlands provide countless opportunities for education; they are rich environments and can provide immense ecological, cultural and historic resources for education, both for adults and children.
Water Supply – Wetlands can provide a huge amount of pure, clean water for adjacent areas. For instance, the Florida Everglades recharges the Biscayne Aquifer, which in turn provides the majority of the drinking water for the entire Miami Metropolitan area.