What is a Wetland?
So much of our environment is impacted by wetlands. Most people do not realize that they play a major part in our world whether they live in the country or in the city. But what exactly is a wetland?
A basic definition is land that is saturated with water. This has to be the case all the time and not just when there is flooding or heavy rains. A wetland could be a swamp, marsh, or even a bog. These are areas always wet with their own unique environment. They can be found in the woods, the plains, the coastal regions, and even in the cities. The only place you will not find a wetland is Antarctica. Any other country you visit will have a wetland of some type to balance its ecosystem. They are that important.
If they are so important, what do they do? What is their purpose? Wetlands provide many benefits to us. They are the primary area for runoff from the surrounding areas. When there is flooding, the excess waters are absorbed by the wetlands. We are finding where many of the flooding emergencies that we have experienced in the last few decades could have been avoided if the surrounding wetlands had not be drained or filled. They were the safety net for those areas. When the wetlands were removed, there was nowhere else for the waters to go except in the developed regions. They also receive any excess sediment that come through to the lakes, rivers, and oceans. You could say that wetlands are the water storage and filtration system for most of the areas around us. The wetlands help keep your lakes and rivers clean and balanced.
In addition to protecting our waterways, the wetlands provide habitation for a multitude of animals. Birds, fish, frogs, and insects are just a few that claim the wetlands home. The most amazing outdoor classroom is the wetland. It could take a lifetime to study all of the wetland animals. They also provide resting places for migrating ducks and geese. They land in the marshes and swamps in route to their winter havens. Taking a day and visiting your local wetland area can be a great way to have a family day and make it educational at the same time. Have fun canoeing. Get your fishing pole out and enjoy catching a wide variety of fish. Like to bird-watch? This is a place to see about every kind of bird in the area. They flock (like the pun?) to the wetlands where there is abundant water and food sources for them. Watch the many butterflies that grace the landscape. Check out the botanical finds that you’ll discover.
The wetlands are such a beautiful place to unwind and enjoy nature. Yet, we are in danger of losing many of them. The United States loses about 60,000 acres of wetland a year! Too much runoff from the loss of other wetland areas and the increase in pollutants are destroying these treasure chests of nature. The EPA and other agencies are trying to protect the wetlands that are left. Bills are constantly going before Congress to increase the protection of the wetlands and to give grants to agencies that are trying to salvage the wetlands in their own backyard. The conservation of these areas has become a huge focus for many groups that want to preserve the wetlands and the wildlife that call them home. As endangered species are discovered in the wetlands more and more attention is given to protecting them.
One of the biggest groups that have made a point of increasing awareness and aid in the restoration of wetlands is Ducks Unlimited. This might sound ironic at first since the main members of this foundation are avid hunters. You might wonder what is going on since their “intent” is to wipe out the wildlife. (Note: this is just an expression on how many view hunters. I am a hunter myself and understand that that is the purpose of the ethical hunter.) But these assumptions are far from accurate. Most hunters are big on conservation because without it there goes all the animals. Participating in conservation programs is a logical move for most hunters. But once again the involvement of Ducks Unlimited goes so far beyond that. As the wetlands began to disappear and the hunters began to notice that there were fewer ducks to be had, they began to put two and two together. No wetlands – No ducks. The snowball effect of this could be huge. So Ducks Unlimited began a campaign to preserve the many wetlands throughout the land. They work with local and federal agencies to keep the wetlands safe. They even go so far as to buy the wetland areas and restore them. Eventually they sell the land to local conservation groups or the various environmental federal agencies. If you look at their magazine, you will find probably more articles on conservation than on actual hunting. They feel that it is that important.
As you begin to realize how important that swamp located a mile down the road is, the next thought could be how could you as an individual help. After all, you probably don’t have millions lying around to buy land and restore it. You probably don’t have much political clout to help get laws passed to preserve these wildlife habitats. But there are several things that you can do.
Duck Stamps – Buy a duck stamp at your local post office and a portion of the revenue goes to wetland conservation. Ducks Unlimited has worked out an arrangement with the post office so that anyone can help and add a little more toward the goal of protecting these areas.
License Plates – If you get a license plate sponsored by Ducks Unlimited, a yearly fee is paid for that special plate that goes straight toward the conservation efforts.
Local Groups – Work with local conservation groups to prevent the draining or filling of local wetlands.
Build Your Own – Believe it or not you can build your own wetland in your own backyard. By doing this you extend the education of your family and also provide a place for excess water to drain into from your lawn. You’ll also have a great place to watch the wildlife without leaving home.
What is the future of our wetlands? Not as bleak as it was twenty or thirty years ago. The rate of loss of wetlands was much larger. But the awareness brought on by the EPA, Department of Natural Resources, and Ducks Unlimited has lowered that loss dramatically. New wetlands are being created to replace ones taken away. Wetlands that are dying are now being restored. Awareness is the key to keeping these nature worlds around for us and the generations to come. Stop by the local DNR office and ask what you can do to help the future of the wetlands.
- North American Wetlands Conservation Act
- Wetlands, Conservation, Waterfowl, Duck Hunting - World Leader in Wetlands Conservation - Ducks Unli
Ducks Unlimited: World Leader in Wetlands & Waterfowl Conservation - Filling the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.
- America\'s Wetland
- Environmental Concern
- National Wetlands Inventory
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service produces information on the characteristics, extent, and status of the Nations wetlands and deepwater habitats.
- Wetlands | US EPA
- Society of Wetland Scientists Journal Wetlands
What state has the most wetlands? It has 175 million acres of wetlands to boast of.