Wetlands

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Wetlands are important for many reasons. Wetlands host an enormous amount of animals, from amphibians and reptiles to birds and mammals. Fish, frogs, turtles, waterfowl, shore and song birds all use wetlands one way or another. Waterfowl use wetlands as their breeding grounds and nesting areas. Millions of ducks use potholes to breed and nest. Potholes are depressions in the ground that fill with water during spring. [1] They provide nurseries for fish who breed and are hatched there. Wetlands are the lifelong habitat for frogs and turtles who are born and develop there. The plants in wetlands also give cover to animals from predators. Fish use the roots of plants to hide and birds use the vegetation as cover. [2]


Importance of Wetlands

Flood Prevention and Water Filtration

Wetlands can also help prevent floods from doing significant damage to surrounding area. The wetlands and their dense vegetation act as a sponge to soak up rainfall or snow melt. It slows down the amount of water that rushes towards streams and rivers. Wetlands also save the shorelines by reducing the damage of waves from Lake Superior and Michigan. The roots bind the shoreline to protect the land from erosion, which saves the habitat and structures.[3]

Wetlands are also used to filtrate the water that is in them. Plants slow the speed of the water, which allows sediment and other particles to settle to the bottom of the water bed. There are also many microorganisms in wetlands that breakdown dead animals and waste. Another way that wetlands filtrate water is they soak up and hold surplus nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus that leak from farms. [4]

Endangerment of Wetlands

Climate Change

The wetlands have the power to create a shift in climate change because of the large amount of carbon that they hold. Plants use carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere, to grow. When plants die and decompose, they release the carbon into the air, unless that carbon is trapped within soil. The decomposition of plants in wetlands is slower because it is cool and damp there. As the temperatures rise, the wetlands start to dry up. When the wetlands dry up they release a vast amount of carbon that has stored in the soils. The total amount of carbon in the wetlands in the world is the same amount as the carbon in the atmosphere. Increased evaporation, more rain and less snow, and season precipitation shifts will cause as much as 90 percent of the wetlands to be lost.[5] But there is still hope for wetlands.

Wetlands can possibly become the savior to global warming too. The fact that wetlands hold carbon dioxide is the key. Scientists think that the carbon can be absorbed into wetlands. But, climate change can still affect wetlands negatively, either by drying them out or possibly flooding them. Scientists cannot be sure of how the rising temperatures will affect wetlands without further research. While wetlands are holding carbon, they are also releasing other greenhouse gases when bacteria breakdown organic material, like methane and nitrous oxide, which is from fertilizer seeping in from agricultural fields.

Agriculture

To farmers, wetlands have been seen as a nuisance. The wetlands weren’t able to keep and hold their crops as well as the normal fields, so farmers have been filling and plowing them for hundreds of years. Until, the Clean Water Act, enacted in 1972, required permits before the farmers could drain the wetlands, but recently a Supreme Court decision weakend the protection of wetlands. The Clean Water Act established a basis to help protect waterways from pollution. Birds and other animals that make wetlands their home are at risk too. Many water fowl use wetlands as their breeding ground and nesting area. The water fowl us prairie potholes as their nests and plowing them will get rid of them. 50% of the duck population use these potholes. In north central U.S. (including WI) and south central Canada there are 3 million of these pothole depressions in the earth. They fill each spring to house millions of ducks, like mallards, blue-winged teal, redheads, canvasbacks, northern shovelers and northern pintail ducks. [6]

References

  1. Tennesen, Michael. A New Dilemma for Ducks. National Wildlife (2010). 38-42.
  2. DNR. "Wetland Functional values." Accessed December 8, 2015. http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wetlands/function.html
  3. Week, Jennifer. "Protecting Wetlands." CQ Researcher (2008): 793-816. Accesed December 8, 2015. http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqresrre2008100300&type=hitlist&num=0
  4. Week, Jennifer. "Protecting Wetlands." CQ Researcher (2008): 793-816. Accesed December 8, 2015. http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqresrre2008100300&type=hitlist&num=0
  5. Week, Jennifer. "Protecting Wetlands." CQ Researcher (2008): 793-816. Accesed December 8, 2015. http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqresrre2008100300&type=hitlist&num=0
  6. Tennesen, Michael. "A New Dilemma for Ducks." National Wildlife (2010). 38-42.

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