World Wetlands Day

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Today is World Wetlands Day.

Today we celebrate wetlands.

Today (and every other 2nd of February) we educate the world on the significance of wetlands in our ecosystem which we are part of.

Today we also seek to protect wetlands that are facing unwarranted destruction.

A wetland is a place where the land is covered by water, either salty, fresh or alkaline water. These places are physically seen as swamps, ponds, marshes, deltas, edges of lakes or places that frequently experience flooding.

Wetlands are very productive ecosystems hosting a variety of species from microbes, insects, plants, amphibians, reptiles, birds, fish and mammals.

Benefits of Wetlands

  • Water Purification

Wetlands protect water quality by trapping sediments and retaining excess nutrients and other pollutants such as heavy metals, pesticides and fertilizers.

These is especially important when a wetland is connected to groundwater or surface water sources (such as rivers and lakes) that are in turn used by humans for drinking, swimming, fishing, or other human activities and for wildlife that inhabit this areas.

Wetlands protect surface waters from the problems of nutrient overload by removing the excess nutrients, some of which are taken up and used by wetland plants, and some of which are converted to less harmful chemical forms in the soil. Therefore acting as carbon sinks.

Toxic chemicals reach surface waters in the same way as nutrients, and can cause disease, death, or other problems upon exposure to plants and animals (including humans).

  • Flood Protection

Wetlands hold the excess runoff after a storm, and then release it slowly. The size, shape, location, and soil type of a wetland determine its capacity to reduce local and downstream flooding.

While wetlands cannot prevent flooding, they do lower flood peaks by temporarily holding water and by slowing the water’s velocity.

Wetland soil acts as a sponge, holding much more water than other soil types. Even isolated wetlands can reduce local flooding — if the wetlands were not there to hold storm water runoff, backyards and basements might end up under water.

  • Shoreline Stabilization

Wetlands that occur along the shoreline of lakes or along the banks of rivers and streams help protect the shoreline soils from the erosive forces of waves and currents.

The wetland plants act as a buffer zone by dispelling the water’s energy and providing stability by binding the soils with their extensive root systems.

  • Water Storage

Aquifers and groundwater are replenished with water by precipitation that seeps into the ground and by surface waters.

Those wetlands connected to groundwater systems or aquifers are important areas for groundwater exchange. They retain water and so provide time for infiltration to occur.

Groundwater, in turn, provides water for drinking, irrigation, and maintenance of stream flow and lake and reservoir levels.

During periods of low stream flow (or low lake water levels), the slow discharge of groundwater often helps maintain minimum water levels. In addition, wetlands located along streams, lakes, and reservoirs may release stored water directly into these systems, thus also contributing to their maintenance.

Wetlands’ many intricate connections with groundwater, stream flow, and lake and reservoir water levels make them essential in the proper functioning of the hydrologic cycle.

  • Biodiversity Protection

Many species of birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians rely on wetland habitat for breeding, foraging, and cover.

The special wetland conditions provide unique habitat for species that cannot survive elsewhere. Migratory birds depend on wetlands, and many endangered and threatened animal species require wetlands during part of their life cycle. The incredibly high rate of wetlands loss has contributed to their reduced numbers.

Wetland plants and small animals (insects) are essential links at the lowest levels of the food chain. A wetlands environment supports these plants and animals, which in turn support the larger animals that feed on them. If we diminish the lowest levels of the food chain, the higher levels will suffer as well.

  • Economic Benefits

Wetlands provide natural flood control and water treatment systems.

The costs of replacing the functions provided by wetlands could far outweigh the land purchase price of preserving the natural wetland systems.

  • Other Benefits

Nature photography, bird watching and overall aesthetic value.

Current trends on wetlands

Wetlands are being partially filled if not damaged.

Degraded wetlands can lose their capacity to remove excess sediments, nutrients, and other pollutants, and lose its habitat value for wildlife.

When we destroy wetlands, we release carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere since wetlands act as carbon sinks.

In order for wetlands to continue performing their ecological functions, and for us to gain from the benefits they provide, we need to do our part to protect them.

Happy World Wetlands Day

Image credit here.

More information on Wetlands here.

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Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui is a believer in all things beautiful. A believer in spreading information in regards to environmental awareness. A believer in sharing all that is good in Kenya's natural world. A believer in speaking truth with no boundaries. Do you have a story, photo, experience or message you need to share? Send your work to vicki@nyikasilika.org or vickiwangui26@gmail.com.

5 Comments

  1. […] Last week was World Wetlands Day. This got me thinking of the causes and effects facing our diminishing wetlands. How and where it all started. […]

  2. […] Last week was World Wetlands Day. This got me thinking of the causes and effects facing our diminishing wetlands. How and where it all started. […]

  3. Risper says:

    For the love of nature….so interesting.

  4. […] is challenging as natural springs, aquifers and groundwater diminish due to lack of wetlands which act as water storage systems. As we clear forests, and even wetlands, we are also reducing carbon sequestration. This is a very […]

  5. […] Wetlands have the power to mitigate climate change. They are critical carbon sinks able to sequester large amounts of carbon dioxide; a greenhouse gas that contributes to the depletion of the Ozone layer thus aiding global warming and hence forth contributing to climate change. […]

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