There are many reasons why we need to take better care of our planet – not only does it benefit all the species of plants and animals that live alongside us, but it also protects our own wellbeing. There are certain areas around the planet that get more attention than others when it comes to conservation. We tend to focus on the fact that our rainforests are being cut down at an alarming rate and that our oceans are polluted with trash and chemicals. While these are concerns that need daily attention and care, have you ever thought about the wetlands? This type of ecosystem houses so much species diversity and other factors that are important to our everyday life. Here, Ranger Mac will take a look at some things we can do to help keep the wetlands safe and why we need to do so.
What are the Wetlands?
The wetlands are areas of land that are saturated by groundwater, either seasonally or year-round. These lands are a combination of water and land, forming one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world. There are many types of wetlands, including swamps, marshes, bogs, and fens. Swamps have more trees than the other varieties of wetlands. Marshes have more reeds and grasses. Bogs have poor soil and are filled with peat. Fens are similar to bogs, but have more plant life than peat content.
Functions of the Wetlands
There are several benefits that the wetlands provide for us and our environment, including the fact that they:
- Filter, clean, and store water. They basically act like the kidneys of other ecosystems.
- Absorb wind and tidal forces.
- Collect and hold flood water.
- Provide habitats for a variety of wildlife and plants.
- Create a great place for recreational opportunities and contain beautiful scenery.
Wetlands essentially function like a large sponge by holding onto floodwaters and helping keep surrounding rivers at normal levels. These lands filter and purify the water that runs through them, and the plants found in the wetlands also help control water erosion. Overall, the wetlands play a silent but crucial role in keeping our planet functioning and running smoothly.
Natural Resources from Wetlands
Aside from the help with water control, we get many common resources from the wetlands. Wetlands provide areas to harvest shellfish, timber, wild rice, blueberries, cranberries, and more. There are even some medicines that are derived from plants found in wetlands. In some parts of the world, more than half of the fish caught and sold in the area are fished from wetlands. This means that not only are the ecosystems in danger, but so are the ways of life for many people.
The Current State of the Wetlands
With the spread of urbanization and the demand for more farmland, many wetland areas continue to be overrun, drained, and wiped out. Not only does this trend put many animal and plant species on the verge of extinction, but also the rivers around the developed areas will more easily flood and cause a lot of damage.
It has been estimated that, at this point, over half of the world’s wetlands have already been destroyed. The worst part is that many wetlands are being destroyed by people who are unaware of the importance of the wetlands to the surrounding areas. Unfortunately, the local people will be the ones who pay the price in the long run, once there are no wetlands around to keep water levels normal.
How Can We Help Protect the Wetlands?
The first step to saving the wetlands is to raise awareness. Wherever you live, learn more about your area’s zoning laws. Keep an eye out for local wetlands and report anything that seems out of place of incorrect. Speaking up helps stop a problem before it’s too late. Spread information on the importance of wetland conservation to your family and friends. Staying informed as to what’s being built around your local wetlands can help protect them from further damage. You can also learn more about wetland conservation and what groups are doing to preserve these areas on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website here. Let's all do our part to keep the wonderful wetlands functioning!