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June 03 2013


EarthTalk: The Importance of Preserving Wetlands

EarthTalk® is a weekly environmental column made available to our readers from the editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Why are wetlands so important to preserve?  – Patricia Mancuso, Erie, PA

Wetlands serve a variety of important ecological functions including feeding downstream waters, trapping floodwaters, recharging groundwater supplies, removing pollution and providing fish and wildlife habitat.Wetlands include swamps, marshes, bogs, riverbanks, mangroves, floodplains, rice fields—and anywhere else, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that saturation with water is the dominant factor determining the nature of soil development and the types of plant and animal communities there. They are widespread in every country and on every continent except Antarctica. If all the world’s wetlands were put together, they would take up an area one-third larger than the United States.

Environmentalists, biologists and others concerned about the health of the planet and its inhabitants recognize the key role wetlands play in life on Earth. The EPA points out that, besides containing a disproportionately high number of plant and animal species compared to other land forms, wetlands serve a variety of ecological services including feeding downstream waters, trapping floodwaters, recharging groundwater supplies, removing pollution and providing fish and wildlife habitat. Wetlands can also be key drivers of local economies, given their importance to agriculture, recreation and fishing.

According to Wetlands International, a global non-profit dedicated to the conservation and restoration of wetlands around the world, wetlands are on the “front-line” as development pressures increase everywhere. “Wetlands are vulnerable to over-exploitation due to their abundance of fish, fuel and water,” reports the group, which works on the ground in 18 countries to educate the public and policymakers about the health of local wetlands and to advocate for better policies. “When they are viewed as unproductive or marginal lands, wetlands are targeted for drainage and conversion.”

“The rate of loss and deterioration of wetlands is accelerating in all regions of the world,” the group adds. “The pressure on wetlands is likely to intensify in the coming decades due to increased global demand for land and water, as well as climate change.”

The widespread expansion of development in the U.S. in recent decades has brought the issue of wetlands loss to the forefront of debates on zoning and land use planning. One of the key and underlying issues is concern about endangered species: More than a third of species on the U.S. Endangered Species List live only in wetlands and almost half use them at some time during their lifecycles.

While the issue lingers on in municipal planning meetings around the country, the federal government does what it can to protect wetlands. It does so through regulations spelled out in the Clean Water Act, which include providing tax incentives for selling or giving wetlands to land trusts or other conservation groups, via cooperative efforts with state and local entities, and by acquiring wetlands outright to add acreage to public lands systems. And several states have passed laws to regulate activities in wetlands, and many municipalities include wetlands conservation in their development permitting and zoning processes.

Readers can do their part by staying current on local zoning laws, keeping an eye on local wetlands and speaking up if something looks amiss. Potential problems are much easier to resolve early on than after damage is done, so speaking up soon can often lead to more successful and less contentious outcomes.
EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine.

Image courtesy iStockPhoto

The post EarthTalk: The Importance of Preserving Wetlands appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 03 2012


Golf Course vs. Dunes: A Rebellion That Failed

Talking with the director of a film about Donald Trump's new golf course in Scotland, constructed on dunes that local fought to protect.
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August 02 2012


Big Drought Makes for a Small 'Dead Zone'

Because of a lack of rain in the Midwest, far less fertilizer was flushed into rivers and far less nitrates reached the Gulf of Mexico, slowing the process that depletes oxygen there.

July 25 2012


How to Rebuild the Mississippi Delta

Last year's diversion of the Mississippi through a spillway suggests that when ideally chosen, such diversions can restore valuable land to the disappearing delta.

April 19 2012


A Rough Patch for Western Waterfowl

An unusually dry few months resulted in thousands of bird deaths, and some worry that the problem could recur unless the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge is accorded more water rights.

March 21 2012


Supreme Court Affirms Idaho Couple's Right to Challenge E.P.A.

The Supreme Court rules that Idaho landowners have the right to seek immediate judicial review of an Environmental Protection Agency order designating their property as wetlands.

March 08 2012


2 Manmade Marshes: One Planted, One Left to Nature

Ultimately, the plant life that flourished in each marsh was roughly identical. But the unplanted one sequestered more carbon.

February 13 2012


A Street View for Rivers

Two surfers embark on a five-year Internet project to document the state of the nation's rivers with a view from the waters. One aim is to show pollution levels.

February 02 2012


A Whooping Crane Migration Will Finish By Truck

The wayward birds could not be persuaded to follow a pilot flying an ultralight plane.

January 25 2012


January 24 2012


Not All Wetlands Are Created Equal

From biological diversity to carbon storage, restored and artificially created wetlands lag far behind wetlands that developed naturally.

January 19 2012


January 17 2012


U.S. Bans Imports of 4 Invasive Snakes

The Interior Department acts after struggling for years to prevent nonnative constrictors from spreading and harming sensitive ecosystems.

January 13 2012


January 10 2012


January 09 2012


Crane Migration Can Resume, F.A.A. Says

Grounded whooping cranes can continue on their trip to Florida with a pilot as surrogate parent and guide.

December 29 2011


California's Delta Ecosystem Is Healthier, For Now

A report says that the population of endangered delta smelt in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta has increased 10-fold since last year. But an invasive weed and a dearth of rain could make the uptick in the estuary's health short-lived.

November 14 2011


August 30 2011


Controversial Airport Is Planned for Costa Rica

A proposed international airport in Costa Rica is eliciting concern about ecological consequences and potential damage to an exemplary network of ecotourism lodges.

July 21 2011


As a River Warms, Hope Beckons

By removing dikes or highways that function as dikes, planners can make way for rising seas that are expected to push an ecosystem farther inland in Washington State.
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