The Importance of Wetlands
What Are They?
A wetland is a habitat where land meets water such as ponds, marshes, swamps, bogs and fens. To classify as a wetland, the area must be completely covered or partially covered with water for a significant amount of time over the course of a year. This could be from flooding due to rain or melting snow, or because it exists as an established waterway. Wetlands are home to aquatic and land creatures, a combination that creates an incredible habitat able to function at great efficiency. This produces a rich environment for its inhabitants – wetlands sustain more life than any other ecosystem!
Swamps: streaming water, often confused with marshes, set apart by the presence of trees and shrubs.
Ponds: shallow waters, surface free of vegetation.
Marshes: continually flooded with lots of surface vegetation.
Bogs/fens: high water levels, large accumulation of peat, looks like solid ground but easy to fall through.
Why Should I Care?
Wetlands are home to more than 200 species of wildlife. Canada has a diverse population of amazing creatures, many that are endangered or at risk. Scientists have estimated that a third of these rely upon the wetland ecosystem. Migrating birds return to the same spot each year, and if that wetland is now a Superstore they have lost nesting grounds and their food source.
Wetlands act like sponges, preventing floods from rainfall and melting snow. They also filter the water from pollution and chemicals, cleansing it before it recycles to the larger water basins. Amazingly, wetlands also remove and store greenhouse gases from the environment, making them important to the future of climate change as well.
Cause to Worry
Canada is home to many varieties of wetlands. It is estimated that 14% of the country is covered by a wetland, though the number shrinks every year. Wetlands are in danger of disappearing across the globe due to agriculture and residential development. According to the Alberta Wilderness Association, 70% of wetlands have been destroyed in that province alone. It is only in more recent years people come to understand the great importance of wetlands and their impact on our country. Without these powerful ecosystems, fowls, amphibians, mammals, reptiles and plants will eventually become extinct.
What Can I Do?
There are numerous organizations that recognize the value of wetlands and work hard to see them untouched and preserved. There are many things still yet to be done and much awareness that still needs to be raised. One factor in the decline of wetlands is the rapid consumption of water. We all need to conserve our water intake. Limiting the chemicals and pesticides we use will also have a positive effect on this ecosystem. Perhaps the most important thing one can do to help protect the wetlands is to educate themselves and others on the subject and become willing advocates. Finally, we can all take the time to enjoy the remaining wetlands and allow ourselves to be reminded why they are important.