Tag Archive for: wetlands

Resilient Wetlands, Resilient Humans

Resilience: the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens (Merriam-Webster)

In my last post, muddy and buggy wetlands were something people wanted to change so the land would be usable for recreation or development. What humans fail to notice, however, is the value of unaltered wetlands in keeping us safe and helping us recover when bad things happen.

wetlands ecosystem with forest in backgroundThose bad things include flooding, erosion, wildfires, and water pollution. Made larger by climate change, storms more frequently bring flooding rain. When rivers overflow, floodplains absorb the excess water and release it slowly. Without the spongy barrier, the water flows quickly onto roads and into houses, sometimes washing away whatever is in its path. Fast water that remains in the river channel erodes the riverbanks and can undermine nearby infrastructure.

On the coast, brackish marshes reduce the impact of storms by slowing and shrinking the size of ocean waves as they head inland.

When wildfires blaze, wetland areas provide shelter for many animals. Wetlands also slow or stop a fire’s spread. Unfortunately, most residential and commercial development reduced or eliminated the wetlands that would have provided a barrier against wildfires.

Wetlands act as water filters. When water flows through wetland vegetation, sediment is trapped; nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which feed harmful algae blooms, are absorbed; and toxic chemicals are buried or neutralized by sunlight. Clean surface water enters the aquifer to provide safe drinking water for humans.

Wetlands help humans become more resilient in the face of climate change, but we need to help them, too. Existing wetlands should be preserved and altered wetlands should be restored wherever possible to mitigate against flooding, erosion, wildfires, and pollution. Not only will we be safer, but the whole web of wetland life will thrive.

Get Out of My Swamp

For my Druidic studies I have been reading books about my local ecology. I couldn’t resist the crossover with my work with turtles, so my current read is The Ecology, Exploitation, and Conservation of River Turtles by Don Moll and Edward Moll. In there is a section on wetlands and the harm caused by draining that swamp.

swamp edge of pondThere are four types of wetlands in the Adirondacks: marshes, bogs, fens, and swamps. The designations have to do with the types of soil and plants in each, but in general wetlands are wet places. Wetlands often link dry places and more defined bodies of water, such as the spongy edges of ponds, but sometimes they are just there, at least for part of the year.

Most of Dancing Turtle Rescue’s healed turtle releases happen in wetlands. I invested in a good pair of waterproof boots after having a few shoes sucked off my feet by mud while escorting turtles home. The still water is a good breeding ground for insects, so wetlands are also often buggy. Because humans usually complain about the mud and the bugs, alterations are made to make wetlands more enjoyable, such as installing walkways and treating the water with pesticides. Wetlands are also unsuitable for building, so swamp after swamp has been drained for development.

Now, thanks to all that swamp draining, we have lost some of the most biodiverse places on Earth. And turtles have lost much of the ideal habitat for hatchlings and juveniles to grow and thrive. As wetlands disappear at an alarming rate, so do turtles.

To save turtles, we need to save wetlands from alteration and development. Shrek said it better, but, seriously, get out of my swamp.