Wetlands can be compared to rainforests and corals reefs in their abundance and importance of the biodiversity that they support and sustain. The wetlands is a rare ecosystem that provide habitats for a variety of wildlife, supporting valuable species of fish, insects and animals that cannot live anywhere else.
Wetlands support the basis of many food webs because their “high levels of nutrients and primary productivity is ideal for the development of organisms,” according to the EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) article, “Wetlands Protection and Restoration.” Water from rain saturates the soil, establishing a unique home for many unique aquatic and terrestrial species.
The high nutrients allow for an abundance of plants to be grown, which in turn feed the fish, amphibians and insects. These are then eaten by birds and mammals, which also rely on wetlands for nesting and migrating. Florida is one of the most prominent spots in the country for wetlands, but it is also one of the most populated people places too. Florida’s wetlands are numerous, but could be endangered due to development. The wetlands found in Florida consist mostly of coastal wetlands, which include salt marshes, bottomland hardwood swamps, fresh marshes and mangrove swamps.
You might ask, why should wetlands be saved? Why should they be important to people? Coastal wetlands provide generous amounts of helpful services to our human community, such as protecting homes from flooding and preventing erosion. They can absorb sea level rises brought about by storms and absorb ocean currents that would erode away rock. Not only do they protect housing, but they also provide sustenance, since about 50 percent of commercial fisheries in the Southeastern United States are near coastal wetlands, according to the EPA. Coastal wetlands also complete important tasks that can’t be seen, such as controlling water quality by filtering out particles before the ocean and carbon sequestration. Carbon sequestration is when coastal wetlands are good at storing carbon that would have been released into the atmosphere, much like old-growth forests do. Very important. This is due to their slow decompositions and quick growth abilities of their plants.
Coastal wetlands are beautiful places that provide extraordinary outdoor recreation opportunities, such as fishing, hiking, kayaking and hiking. Thankfully there are organizations trying to safeguard these lands, but all of us can do our own helpful part too, by being mindful of items we use and understanding if they can contaminate water. For example, use phosphate-free laundry detergent (can suffocate plant life by supporting algae growth), or use only non-toxic sprays for gardens and lawns, since the runoff can trickle into a watershed and then contaminate a wetland.
Doing those few and simple things, we can all enjoy the great outdoors and know that we are working together to keep the place clean!