May is American Wetlands Month! No matter where you live, chances are there's a wetland nearby that provides important environmental benefits to your community. Wetlands supports diverse fish and wildlife species, filter pollutants from rain water runoff, help recharge groundwater supplies, prevent flooding and enhance property values.
Despite their many benefits, the United States loses about 60,000 acres of wetlands each year. Compared to other coastal states, Florida, Texas, California and Louisiana have lost the most coastal marshland - California alone has lost more than 91 percent of its coastal wetlands. The Chesapeake Bay has lost 50 percent of its coastal marshes. Since the arrival of settlers, 70 percent of tidally influenced wetlands in the Puget Sound have been lost. And, only about 40 to 50 percent of the prairie region's original prairie pothole wetlands remain undrained today.
Viewer Tip: Development that occurs on or nearby wetlands can lead to loss of habitat, changes in water flow, polluted runoff and other impacts. Try these tips to protect your local wetlands:
- Keep lawns and driveways free of pet waste, fertilizers and motor oil. These pollutants can wash into the storm drains and eventually reach a wetland.
- Choose native species when planting trees, shrubs and flowers to preserve the ecological balance of local wetlands.
- Use non-toxic products for household cleaning and lawn and garden care. Never spray lawn and garden chemicals outside on a windy day or on a day when it might rain and wash the chemicals into local waterways.
- Many exotic animals are introduce into wetlands by homeowners and hobbyists, where they can harm native wildlife. If you have a home aquarium with exotic saltwater or freshwater fish or raise non-native amphibians or reptiles, do not release them into the wild.
- Volunteer to help monitor or restore wetlands near you. Get in touch with local environmental organizations, your state agency or community groups to see how you can participate in programs that protect wetlands.
Download high and low resolution versions of the wetlands image by clinking the image above.
For more weather and environment tips, visit Earth Gauge!
(Sources: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Wetlands”; “Volunteer Monitoring”; “American Wetlands Month”; Izaak Walton League of America, “Wetlands Sight and Sounds Series”)