The list of ecosystem services provided by wetlands seems endless. They are incredible habitats located where the sea meets land, usually freshwater or brackish -partially salted. Marshes, swamps, sloughs all fall under the wetlands category.
Wetlands are some of the planet’s most productive ecosystems. They provide nurseries to countless animals, and are a refuge for migrating birds.
They are nature’s very own filtration system, acting like sponges by absorbing nutrients and stabilizing sediments and shorelines. Their incredible shoreline retention provides a great service to coastal communities by protecting them from storm damage. Studies estimate that wetlands in the US reduce the severity of impact by hurricanes, and their estimated worth is $23.2 billion per year.
Wetlands are also important areas of agriculture -rice, cranberries, medicinal plants, peat for fuel and gardens, and building materials like poles and grasses and reeds can be extracted from their land. They are also flourishing grounds for fishing. This makes them great sites of cultural interest, in addition to being ceremonial grounds for many native tribes.
Ensuring the conservation of these ecosystem is crucial, as their role for our communities as well as the planet is unrivaled. Mexico already has over 142 protected sites designated as wetlands of international importance. It is estimated that the US lost about 50% of wetlands over the past two centuries, but major progress in conservation has ensued in recent years. The biggest threats are construction and development, and poor water quality affected by boat fuel, flotsam (discarded materials) from surrounding bays and ocean, and urban storm runoff.
Their survival has strong biological, social and economical implications. Our mission includes the protection and conservation of these beautiful ecosystems.
Photos: Claudio Contreras
Post by Patricia Fernandez