It has only been relatively recent in the history of our country that wetlands were recognized as having value within local ecosystems. Previously, freshwater wetlands were simply considered wastelands to be filled in and paved over as much as possible. However, wetlands enhance the overall health of our environment in many ways, and regulatory agencies exist to ensure that their value isn't lost to overzealous development. That doesn't mean that some development, such as the construction of minor right-of-ways, isn't allowed, but it does mean development will have to have an extremely light impact on the health of the wetlands in questions. Following are just four of the ways that wetlands improve the lives of everyone around them.
Wetlands Provide Critical Wildlife Habitat
Indigenous fish and wildlife depend on wetlands to provide habitat. They are extremely productive ecosystems that harbor wide varieties of animal and plant life -- in fact, more than one-third of the species currently on the threatened and endangered species lists make their home in America's wetlands. Without this habitat, we risk losing substantial amounts of biodiversity.
Wetlands Help Keep Your Drinking Water Clean
Water bodies such as streams, creeks, and rivers are frequently the recipients of harmful substances such as industrial chemicals or rainwater runoff that contains herbicides and pesticides. Think of wetlands as the strainers that help prevent these toxins from entering our water supply. Many species of wetland vegetation, for instance, absorb toxic substances and processes them down into less harmful versions. Microbes and other bacterial organisms that are abundant in wetlands also break down toxic compounds so that they no longer pose a health threat to drinking water supplies.
Wetlands Protect Surrounding Areas From Flooding
Wetlands absorb substantial amounts of surface run-off water such as seasonal snowmelt and rain, trapping it and releasing it slowly, therefore providing surrounding areas with significant protection from flooding. They also store large amounts of floodwaters, rendering flooding that does occur less severe that it might otherwise be.
Wetlands Give You Good Things to Eat
Without wetlands you wouldn't be able to enjoy anything made with cranberries, wild rice, and waterfowl such as ducks and geese. Many types of fish and shellfish begin their lives in wetlands before migrating to the open ocean, providing jobs for those employed in the fishing and seafood processing industries as well as good things to eat for our tables.
So next time you see a wetland and think it's just a useless swamp, think again -- it does all sorts of good things for you. Check out Crest Engineering Associates for more information.