Each year, World Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 2. Wetlands come in many forms and go by many names - estuaries, bogs, mangrove swamps, vernal pools, marshes, riparian wetlands, cypress swamps, playa lakes and more! Wetland areas improve water quality, provide flood protection and support tones of fish, wildlife and plants. If you've been hunting, clamming, crabbing, or enjoy eating salmon, you reaped the benefits of wetland ecosystems. Wetlands are some of the most important resources for migratory birds like ducks, geese, and sandhill cranes, and also support moose, black bears, lynx, beavers and other wildlife. Cranberries and blueberries grow in bogs in the northern United States.
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 most coastal marshland - California alone has lost more than 91 percent of its coastal wetlands and the Chesapeake Bay has lost 50 percent of its coastal marshes. Since the arrival of settlers, 70 percent of tidally influenced wetlands in 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: No matter where you live, chances are there is a wetland nearby. 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 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 introduced 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 local wetlands near you. Visit water.epa.gov/type/watersheds/monitoring/vol.cfm for more information!
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,”; National Biological Information Infrastructure Digital Image Library; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Digital Library System)