World Wetlands Day: How to Help Conserve Our Wetlands
There are things in life we use and enjoy every day that we can thank wetlands for. If you drive a car, cook, or heat your home, you might be using oil or gas that traveled through coastal wetlands. Love seafood? Many fish, from salmon to striped bass, and shellfish such as lobster, shrimp, oysters, and crabs depend on coastal wetlands for shelter, food, and reproduction. If you enjoy fishing, wetlands also provide shelter, food, reproduction and safety for younger fish which also gives us the opportunity to go fishing once the fish matures. If you own coastal property or live near a river, wetlands protect you by absorbing storms, floods, and high waves by acting as a buffer. They also pick up excess fertilizer, pesticides, and sediments. If you love marine life or enjoy going to the beach, plant life in healthy wetlands filters impurities before it reaches the oceans.
Today QRI celebrates the 48th annual World Wetlands Day, a day established to raise awareness about the value and benefits of wetlands for humanity and the planet. Wetlands are a natural solution for flood and storm mitigation, water quality improvement, and provides a habitat for biodiversity and threatened species. Wetlands can be impacted by changes in temperature, rainfall, sea level rise and extreme events. Therefore, it is important for us to restore, use wisely, conserve, and stop further drainage from happening.
There are many ways you can protect and preserve wetlands. These include being involved in conservation efforts, volunteering with wetland protection agencies, and take simple steps at home to protect the environment. You can volunteer with programs that help protect and restore wetlands by contacting your local wetland protection or preservation organization about activities in your area. Wetlands are protected areas so it is important to report illegal activities such as illegally dumping waste, cutting down plants and trees, or pouring dirt into a wetland to your state’s environmental protection organization. Many native species have disappeared in the result of wetlands being filled and cleared in recent years. Planting native species of trees, shrubs, and flowers will help keep the ecological balance of the wetlands. This will help prevent invasive species from damaging the ecosystem and can also attract bees whose population is known to be decreasing.
You can also contribute to wetland conservation at home by limiting household waste. Since trash can make its way into the water, it is important to separate recyclable products from your trash to a recycling bin, properly dispose of household cleaning products, and try to reuse as many items as possible to reduce the amount of plastic and other non-biodegradable waste that you produce. Also, be mindful that bleached recycled products and paper contains chemicals that can contaminate water and harm wetlands once they are thrown away. Choose non-toxic lawn and garden products or take the initiative to never spray lawn and garden chemicals outside on a windy day or when rain could wash the chemicals into waterways. Water from most washing machines and dishwashers drains into water supplies and can contaminate wetlands. Avoid purchasing laundry or dishwasher detergents that contain phosphate. Phosphate encourages algae growth which can suffocate aquatic life and destroy lakes and streams.
Overall it is necessary for people to be concerned about the deterioration of our wetlands. With just a few simple changes and increased awareness, you and your family can help preserve one of our coastlines most valuable resources.
By: Laci Nyguen, Biologist