Here we are yet again for another and possibly even our last Civic Issues Blog! After a little break two weeks ago when we had to write about our deliberations, I am back to discussing the many different ecosystems we have on our lovely Earth. And the last habitat I will introduce are Wetlands. Many people have hard time identifying what wetlands are because well, most people just flat out don’t know. So in simple terms, a wetland is a place where the land is covered by water. This covers a wide spectrum of places with either salt or fresh water and can vary from marshes, to ponds, swamps, deltas, edges of lakes or oceans, or low laying areas that get flooded frequently. All of these places can be considered wetlands.
In the past I have been discussing ecosystems that are the most diverse places and are very productive. What might be surprising is that wetlands are right up there with coral reefs and tropical rain forests for the most productive ecosystems. The biodiversity that thrives in these wetlands is immense. And it makes sense! If you have an area that is both land and water, you can support double the plants and animals than what just a land or just a water ecosystem can support. The animals that can be found here include plants, amphibians, reptiles, insects, birds, fish, microbes, and of course mammals.
One of the reasons they can house so many different types of species is because of the volumes of food that can be found. When plants die, their stems break down and go into the water, forming organic particles called detritus. These materials are very rich and feed a very large portion of the aquatic life.
Many people would think wetlands are useless to humans; we can’t build on it because either the land isn’t hard enough or it mostly covered by water, and we can’t swim in it because there’s mud and so much wildlife. So a lot of people see them as wastes of space. However, there are many benefits of wetlands that are a huge help to human life including flood protection, water quality improvement, maintaining wildlife, and so much more.
Wetlands work as sponges, slowly releasing surface water, snowmelt, rain, and groundwater. All the vegetation between the trees and shrubs also helps in distributing the water more slowly over a floodplain. All these help in lowering flood heights and reducing erosion. Wetlands downstream of urban areas have the most work because they have to add in water from surface runoff from pavements and buildings. These are essential! Without wetlands, floods would be more common. These natural barriers create a protection area around land masses. Not only do they prevent and control flooding but they also prevent water-logging of crops which farmers and every consumer appreciate greatly.
Wetlands are actually fantastic natural filters of water be it salt or fresh. The waters that run through wetlands can be filtered and made better before they can reach their main body of open water. As they travel through the brush and trees sediments that cause clogs in waterways and would affect fish and amphibian egg development are filtered out. They retain excess nutrients and pollutants and save the US millions of dollars. It was discovered that if the Congaree Bottomland Swamp in South Carolina was not there, the US would have to spend over $5 million dollars in a waste water treatment plant. Another quick great thing wetlands do is keep a steady stream flow during the dry periods and replenish groundwater. Without knowing it, Americans depend greatly on wetlands for the water they are drinking.
To follow along with my passion blog, over one third of the US’s endangered and threatened species can only be found and live in wetlands. And over half actualy must use wetlands at some point in their lives. One of the main reasons wetlands are so important to these migratory species is because they return every year to breed and raise their young before going back to live the rest of their lives. Many animals do this and to give examples of a few they include sea trout, shrimp, crabs, and many others. For some animals, wetlands are the only places they can live. For examples ducks, muskrats, and beavers must live in wetlands to survive.
If this is the last Civic Issue blog week, and I’m pretty sure it is, I hope I have helped educate you on the many ecosystems and widened your appreciation for our Earth. There are many reasons humans need to get their act together and stop destroying our planet and the conservation of these ecosystems is a huge one. We can’t live without them or the animal and plant life they support. People need to realize this or we will be destroying ourselves and the beauty that this Earth contains.