Construction is another threat because as the population grows the demand for affordable housing goes up. Also with a rise in population comes a demand for food, which leads the to last and most destructive threat to wetlands, farming. Farming is all the threats to wetlands rolled into one; it builds over hundreds of acres of land and pollutes it with fertilizers and herbicides. There are many misconceptions about wetlands that the public has due to the fact that there is not much public interest to save the wetlands.
Well what exactly is a wetland?
A lowland area, such as a marsh or swamp, that is treated with moisture, especially when regarded as the natural habitat of wildlife, but in actuality a wetland is so much more than that. Depending on the type of wetland suggests the function it performs for the environment. We now realize that wetlands are important and valuable ecosystems. They are home to many beautiful and rare species.
They filter runoff and adjacent surface waters to protect the quality of our lakes, bays and rivers. Wetlands also protect many of our sources of drinking water.
They are the source of many commercially and recreational valuable species of fish, shellfish and lilied. They retain floodwater and protect shorelines from erosion (Gomez, J. 1 992, Peg. 3). There are several types of wetlands each differing in its location, climate, and the life supported. There are Northern Bogs, Prairie Potholes, Cypress Swamps, vernal pools, Southern Bottom Lands, and Coastal Marshes. For example bogs are especially good for trapping CO in the form of peat, coastal marshes filter out saltwater coming inland from the ocean, and cypress swamps (Above) absorb pollutants into their sediment.
BRB> very beautiful as well as beneficial wetland is the vernal pool. Vernal lolls are naturally occurring depression type wetlands that are covered by shallow water from winter to spring, but may be completely dry for most of the summer and fall. These wetlands range in size from small puddles to shallow lakes and are usually found in a gently sloping plain of grassland. Although generally isolated, they are sometimes connected to each other by small drainages known as vernal swales. Beneath vernal pools lies either bedrock or a hard clay layer in the soil that helps keep water in the pool.
Climatic changes associated with each season cause dramatic changes in the appearance of vernal pools. The pools collect water during winter and spring rains, changing in volume in response to varying weather patterns. During a single season, pools may fill and dry several times. In years of drought, some pools may not fill at all. Len the spring, wildflowers often bloom in brilliant circles of color that follow the receding shoreline of the pools. By early summer, the water has evaporated, and the clay pools appear brown, barren, and cracked. However, appearances may be deceiving.
The unique environment of vernal pools provides habitat for numerous rare plants and animals that are able to revive these harsh conditions. Many of these plants and animals spend the dry season as seeds, eggs, or cysts, and then grow and reproduce when the ponds are flooded again. In addition, birds such as egrets, ducks, and hawks use vernal pools as a seasonal source of food and water (Marshall, 1978). Potholes are a very beneficial wetland that is home to dozens of migratory waterfowl. They are found primarily in the Upper Midwest, especially North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
This formerly glaciated landscape is covered with a vast number of potholes, which fill with snowbell and rain in the spring. Some prairie pothole marshes are temporary, while others may be virtually permanent. Here, as in other marshes, submerged and floating aquatic plants take over the deeper water; while bulrushes and cattails grow closer to shore, and wet marshes lie next to the upland. These wetlands are a sort of cousin to vernal pools, sharing the same location, and seasonal waters. (Marshall, 1978).
Another infamous type of wetland is the bog. These wetlands have for centuries have been shrouded with mystery. Bogs are known for their ability to produce peat, which is just as valuable as coal. They also have the ability to reserve things, one such incident in 1 987 where a 2,800-year-old corpse was pulled from the swampy waters in near perfect condition ((March, of the Bog” National Geographic). This man had been killed during the Iron Age, in a radicalized thief’s execution, which involved the torture and eventual slitting of the throat. Such wetlands in Florida preserved the bodies of hunter gatherer’s for thousands of years after they died. So in a sense wetlands can provide us with vital archeological evidence.
However all this evidence is being threatened as peat bogs are being mined into extinction. Beer> BRB>The greatest benefit wetlands have is on the environment they support, with out these lands many species of plants and animals. Many fish that live in the ocean depend on the wetlands. One may ask how a wetland could be necessary for a fish that lives in the ocean? The answer is that wetlands serve as breeding grounds for many animals, not just fish, as well as act as nurseries for when the animals are just born. It is said that half the fish that are caught commercially rely on wetlands to reproduce (Marshall, A. 1 978, peg. 5).
Wetlands are critical to the fish industry, which continues to over farm he oceans. This is a problem obviously because there are more and more fish being caught and less places f or them to breed. This is also true with migratory birds, which use the wetlands to make pit stops and raise their young. It is the life that the wetlands support which makes them North America’s rain forests. In fact a wetland produces just as much life as a rain forest of the same size, and they are both being destroyed at about the same rate (Mitchell, J. (1992, October). “Our Disappearing Wetlands” National Geographic, Peg 15).
While wetlands are able to support life they also protect rounding ecosystems by taking in pollutants that would normally poison the land. Beer>There is one more very important element of wetlands that benefits both humans and animals, and that is CO reduction. According to the EPA since 1990 the amount of CO in the atmosphere has risen dramatically. Wetlands are our immediate protection from this because they take in as much CO as the rain forest and out put just as much oxygen. Wetlands reduce the amount of CO, not just by photosynthesis but also in the form of what is called peat.
Peat is a dark brown coal like substance, which is created by the decay and arbitration of plants in the water of wetlands or bogs (Incarnate 2001 : “Peat”). Peat is still mined today for its fuel uses, which is another cause of destruction to wetlands. So in short peat is both a protector of the atmosphere and a UsefUl fuel source, unfortunately wetlands are destroyed for it. Lets say for a moment that there is a utilitarian who doesn’t eat fish, cares not for bird watching or bio-diversity, and never listens to the reports on global warming.
What about people right now? Well people need water, and lots of it. The city of Los Angles consumes millions of gallons of water everyday. Of course this water does not come from wetlands, but wetlands prevent the contamination of where our water does come from. With out wetlands natural and non-natural pollutants would flow into our rivers, lakes, aquifers and reservoirs (Mitchell, J. (1 992, October) “Our Disappearing Wetlands”. National Geographic, up. 14-15). Coastal Marshes also act as a go between to stop salt water from coming inland to lakes and rivers.
Coastal marshes are the most fertile form of wetlands that support dozens of species Of plants and animals. Animals like shrimp, crabs, and eatable fish all spend sometime in coastal wetlands. These animals are a good, as well as expensive source of food. Other animals like oysters and clams also live in wetlands. Only do wetlands protect our water, but they also protect us from water. Since wetlands can be looked at as sponges, they do a very good job at preventing floods. When wetland loss reached its peak last year in Florida, the state began to have huge problems with flood control and landslides.
Landslides are prevented by wetlands because they absorb excess water that can go elsewhere and soften the ground. Wetlands also hold the land together, the roots of its trees and shrubs hold the soil in place, which reverts disasters. They can also protect us from the force of water, coastal marshes help break the waves that come from the ocean which helps protect the near by land and potential housing (Angel, 1982).
Plants are another important aspect of wetlands. Plants form the base of wetlands and everything else lives on top of them.
Plants are what holds the wetlands together, literally, in cypress swamps especially the roots of the trees stabilize the surrounding land and keep it from being eroded or washed away. Plants also provide a good source of food while performing other tasks o improve the wetland. One good example Of this is a plant called duckweed it grows in swamps, absorbs pollutants in water, and is a favorite food among ducks (Mitchell, J. (1 992, October) “Our Disappearing Wetlands”. National Geographic, up. 30-31 These plants do benefit humans too, wild cranberries grown naturally in bogs and marshes.
Other plants such as cattails and water lilies grow in wetlands and are said to have medicinal purposes. Like said before one of the greatest aspects of wetlands are the animals that live in them. What makes the wetlands unique is the life that they purport and the species of animals that will live only there. A very common sight to wetlands are birds. One third of this county’s birds live in wetlands and over half will spend time there while migrating. With these creatures’ homes disappearing, they themselves are also disappearing.
In 1 940 more than 40 million mallard ducks would land in the wetlands of Central Valley California. Due to massive reclaiming of wetlands especially in California, which has lots over 91% of its wetlands, today no more than 5 million migrate through there each year. Surprisingly even a bird such as a bald eagle has offered from the damage to the everglades. The bald eagle depends on the everglades for a source of food and a place to raise her young. They eat the vast amount of fish that live in the marshy waters, and nest in the trees that spring up from the water.
Even this most prestigious of animals was hurt when near by Farmers sprayed their crops with DICHLORIDE DEEPENING TETRACHLORIDE or EDT (Morrison, A. (1 994, April). National Geographic, Peg 11). EDT is a chemical that is used to kill insects and weeds, this chemical is so dangerous that it was used in a more concentrated form as a chemical paean during World War l. The problem with this insecticide is that the next time it rains it is washed off into a near by water source or in this case a wetland. This poisoned nearby fish, which were eaten by a bald eagle and given to her chicks.
It was even worse if the mother had survived because if she laid eggs they would have unusually thin shells, which would break before the embryo was ready to be born. Naturally this had a devastating effect on their population. Not only are birds affected by the loss footplates but dozens of types of animals like frogs, fish, and turtles. Fish are especially pendent on wetlands either for spawning or as a habitat. Since most pollutants are dumped first into the water then fish and other aquatic life are the first to feel the effect of contaminants.
Another animal that depends on wetlands are crocodiles, not common to all wetlands, but infamous in the swamps of southern Florida known as the Everglades. The crocodile has had his share of problems because of what man has been doing to the everglades. Oddly enough this problem comes from near by nuclear power plants, the radioactive waste that was left over caused the crocodile population to slip each year (Morrison, A. 1 994, April). National Geographic, peg 11). The everglades are probably the best know wetland in the country, mostly because it is the wetland that is a national park.
The Everglades was actually a river that was 50 miles wide and 6 inches deep that flowed from lake Cheekbone to Florida Bay. It technically was never a wetland until man came in and cut it off from Cheekbone. Farmers taped it for water, and drained the land to raise crops. Engineers built over it, and diverted its flow to provide water for southern Florida. All this chopping off of the everglades caused the water to become stagnant and form a swamp. One of the largest single destructions to the Everglades was the building of Disney World. Hundreds of square miles of wetland were drained or destroyed for the building of Pepco Center. This destruction occurred because it was the least expensive land in all of Florida (Gomez, 1 992 Peg. 32).
The Everglades are very special wetlands that have been attacked since the earliest days of our country. The Everglades were considered to be useless wastelands that had to be destroyed for the good of the country. The wetlands were hit hard by destruction, every single form of damage that can mom to a wetland happens to the Everglades. When the areas around the Everglades were not heavily populated they were poisoned by the pollution of industrial plants.
Previous to 1984 when the area was declared a park, the water in the Everglades contained a pollution level of 5,000 parts per million. This is extremely high compared to bottled water which is 30-50 parts per million (Avian). Its true that the wetlands have been treated poorly, but it was just as bad if not worse 150 years ago. Back then it was perfectly legal, as well as encouraged to destroy wetlands. So says the Swamp Lands Act of 1850, the ill reads that it is legal and encouraged that people reclaim all swamp lands and marshes so that they might yield agricultural benefits.
The swampland act was the first in a set of laws that permitted the destruction of wetlands. Even in the days of the depression Government agents were sent into places like the Everglades and actually trained farmers in how to drain and fill in wetlands for crops. One such orange grove farmer in southern Florida can remember when representatives from Washington taught his father how to drain the wetlands of their water and to put them to good use. “The overspent did all the engineering. They advised us on how to drain the land. They wanted us to do it.
Now we’re being told to put the water back. ‘ Laurence Crop (Mitchell, J. “Our Disappearing Wetlands” (1 992, October). National Geographic, Peg 34). Beer>Thankfully today there are far more laws protecting wetlands, unfortunately these laws, more often than not, are loosely enforced or not followed at all. The very first law that was set to protect wetlands was the wetland protection act of 1972. This basically undid what the swamplands act of 1 850 had done to destroy these precious ecosystems. This law declared all wetlands as gentle area’s that would be protected by the government.
It also declared that the Florida Everglades was a Nation Park one Of the laws to protect wetlands was section 404 Of the clean water act. Section 404 establishes a program to regulate the discharge of dredge and fill material into waters of the United States, including wetlands. Activities in waters of the United States that are regulated under this program include fills for development, water resource projects (such as dams and levees), infrastructure development (such as highways and airports), and inversion of wetlands to uplands for farming and forestry (Section 404 of the clean water act Mitchell, J. 1992, October) “Our Disappearing Wetlands”. National Geographic, peg 34).
The basic idea of the program is that no run off of dredged or fill material can be permitted if there’s an alternative that is less damaging to the wetlands or if the nation’s waters would be contaminated. In other words, when you apply for a permit, you must show that you have: taken steps to avoid wetland impacts as much as possible, minimized potential impacts to wetlands, and provided compensation for any remaining unavoidable impacts by restoring or creating wetlands (Section 404 of the clean water act Mitchell, J. 1 992, October) ‘Our Disappearing Wetlands”. National Geographic, Pigs).
The next law to be made to protect wetlands was the swampiest. Contrary to its name it is more of a barterers, providing strict penalties for farmers who harm wetlands. In all honesty though this lava is much more lenient, allowing almost any kind of farm activity with the use of a permit. The program discourages farmers from altering wetlands by withholding Federal farm program benefits from any person who converts a wetland for the repose of or to make agricultural commodity production.
Which basically means that any and all assistance that comes from the government to help farmers. Things like disaster insurance, and bonding are all cut from them until they either get a permit or restore the wetland (Mitchell, J. (1992, October) “Our Disappearing Wetlands”. National Geographic, Peg. 35). was said before that farming is one of the most destructive forces working against wetlands, which is why there’s a whole section devoted to it. Farming has always used wetlands for their water and then destroyed them to raise crops. Farming can cause destruction so devastating to the land it may never recover.
Things like demolition, pollution, and upsets in the ecosystem can all be attributed to farming. The most direct form of destruction from farming is the clearing of land for farms. During the early parts fifths century wetlands were regarded by everyone to be useless wastelands, this is why farmers never hesitated to remove a marsh that was in the way of their orange grove. Also there were no laws to stop farmers from doing what they wanted to with wetlands. With growing technology and mechanical advances farmers have been able to maintain larger and larger areas of land, which intern means more wetland destruction.
Since 1950 the population of Florida has grown by leaps and bounds, and the farm industry has followed close behind. As of now the number of Farmers in the Sunshine State has reached an all time high, in response for the demand for food. Another way that Farms wreak havoc on wetlands is in the chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. Pesticides take the most direct toll on the environment, they not only kill the insects that feed on crops, but the insects in wetlands where the run off from farms make their way into swamps.
From here the pesticides can kill even large animals like ducks and fish, and upset the natural bacterial and microorganisms that form the base of the food chain. Herbicides are what farmers use to keep down weeds. This has a disastrous effect on the environment that is made up mostly of plants. The herbicides make their way into the swamp the same way as pesticides the only difference is that on most farms herbicides are sprayed much more often as weeds are a consistent problem. These chemicals do nitrous hurt plants, they are extremely poisonous to wild life.
BRB> The last and seemingly least dangerous chemicals to wetlands are redelivers. While fertilizers do not kill or destroy any plants or animals they can have a huge indirect impact. Fertilizers cause plant life to over grow, to kind of tip the ecological scale. What does this mean? It means that there are more plants than the herbivores can eat and this disrupts the ecosystem. Beer>The final form of wetland destruction that is sprung out of farming is the draining of wetlands for their water. To farmers this is the only good thing they see in wetlands, a cheap accessible source of water.
Farmers realized that these inconveniently placed roadblocks could provide a useful resource fore they are plowed over. This problem is what continued the destruction of wetlands after the wetlands protection act was passed because there was no law against the draining of wetlands. The thing with wetlands is that taking away their water is just as bad as removing them because the life inside them cannot survive with out the water and the whole place dies anyway. This loophole allowed wetlands to be violated still, until the “swampiest” law made this illegal (Morrison, A. (1994, April).
Right now it may seem that man is completely at fault for the damage one to wetlands, but there are many environmental factors that are causing wetlands to disappear. Things like droughts, erosion, and rising sea levels are all causing damage in some form to wetlands. Droughts have always been a problem for wetlands, they cause the ecosystem to dry up and when this happens the wetland is basically destroyed. However this problem does have its roots with man, water pumps and dams can prevent wetlands from receiving their sources of water and dry up.
Erosion usually happens when a river that is connected to a wetland overflows and washes away the area. Wetlands are designed to have water that is stagnant or not moving, when this water begins to flow like a river the wetland is devastated. Plants begin to wash away and the current takes away the offspring of animals, like fish and tadpoles, since they are too weak to fight against it. Rising sea levels are a big problem especially for coastal marshes. I’m sure many of us can remember the movie WATERWORKS (Universal Pictures, 1 995) where the earth is covered with water because the ice caps melted.
Well according to scientists this is becoming more science fact than fiction. As pollution continues to Vega the ozone layer the ice caps melt causing the oceans to rise and this is proving costly for coastal marshes. These areas cannot survive when completely submerged in salt water. With out these wetlands we lose a vital link between the land and sea. Construction is another huge threat to wetlands. As the population grows the need for affordable housing becomes obvious. Contractors are always begging to turn wetlands into low cost housing, malls, or movie theaters.
Construction in itself is a very permanent form of wetland destruction in that it may be difficult to get permission to build over a bog, UT its impossible to move someone out of their house to replace a precious ecosystem. This may seem like wetlands are holding back the economy by preventing construction, but how much money to we gain or lose because of wetlands each year. Wetlands contribute to the economy by producing resources and commodities and providing other benefits. One of the largest industries that have sprung from wetlands is the fishing industry.
Wetlands are important spawning nursery areas and provide plant food for commercial and recreational fish and shellfish industries. In 1991, the dockside value of fish ended in the United States was $3. 3 billion, which served as the basis of a $26. 8 billion fishery processing and sales industry, which in turn employs hundreds of thousands of people. An estimated 71% of this value is derived from fish species that during their life cycles depend directly or indirectly on coastal wetlands. For example, Louisianan marshes alone produce an annual commercial fish and shellfish harvest of 1. Billion pounds worth $244 million in 1991.
Another large form of income from wetlands is recreation. More than half of all U. S. Adults (98 million people) hunt, fish, bird watch, or photograph lilied. These activities, which rely on healthy wetlands, added an estimated $59. 5 million to the national economy in 1991. Individual States likewise gain economic benefits from recreational opportunities in wetlands that attract visitors from other States. (Taken from [U. S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment. 1993. Preparing for an Uncertain Climate]. alt has been said already that wetlands protect the environment from pollution, what hasn’t been discussed is what that saves people in terms of taking time and natural resources to clean water.
Wetlands help stop pollutants from entering receiving waters. For example, the wetlands of the Congealer Bottommost Hardwood Swamp in South Carolina remove sediment and toxic substances and remove or filter excess nutrients. The least cost substitute for these wetlands benefits would be a Water treatment plant costing $5 million dollars to construct, and additional money would be needed to operate and maintain the plant. U. S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment. 1993. “Preparing for an Uncertain Climate”) wetlands can retain excess water, they can replace expensive man made dyke’s or canals.
Which brings me to my next point, the savings on drainage. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has come up with the cost of $300 to replace, on average, each acre-foot of floodwater storage. In other words, if development eliminates a one-acre wetland that naturally holds 12 inches of water during a storm, the replacement cost would be $300. The cost to replace the 5,000 acres of wetlands lost annually in Minnesota would be $1. 5 million (in 1991 dollars).
Beer>alt is obvious now that wetlands pose a great benefit to the economy through its resources and recreation, how its one of a kind ecosystem supports a wide variety field life that makes it precious to the environment, UT what does the future hold for wetlands. When this country was first founded in 1 776 there were over 220 million acres of wetlands in the lower 48 states, today less than 1 00 million acres remain.
This translates to 60 acres per hour from then until now, and at the current rate of destruction there will be less than 10 percent of wetlands remaining in the US (Mitchell, J. (1992, October) “Our Disappearing Wetlands” . National Geographic, up. 13-14). Even though this is a scary statistic EPA officials are confidant with the new laws in place protecting wetlands we can look forward to still having more than 10 percent around in the future. Currently some states like California have less than 9% Of its original wetlands remaining.
F-or States like California there is little we can do to repair the damage that has been done. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been attempts to replace what nature has created. This even made its way into the white house when the Clinton administration looked for a solution to try to stop the terrible flooding problems that have been affecting the states bordering the Mississippi River. In 1993 the administration decided to convert nearby agricultural land into wetlands. According the plan, the new areas would be converted to wetlands, rather Han having their levees rebuilt at taxpayers’ expense.
Rivers could then spread across floodplains with less threat to property, less water speeding downstream toward cities, and lower government costs for emergency relief and cleanup. However when nearby farmers complained that levees should be built instead of taking a gamble on artificial wetlands, this became known as the Levee Controversy. Artificial wetlands had never been used before and had had a terrible track record. Farmers were also mad that they had to give up hundreds of acres of land that could be put to agricultural use. To quote one farmer “These levee districts protect land that produces good for mankind.
They don’t get flooded every year. Maybe once in 20 or 30 years. That has to be Swanson (February 23, 93) “The Levee Controversy’ Chicago Tribune). Regardless of its critics the plan Was put into effect and the land was converted into wetlands. To this day we sill do not know how effective the wetlands have been since there has not been a great enough flood to test the flood preventing abilities of these wetlands.
1985 there was an attempt to replace the Seawater marsh in New Mexico with bad results. With in a year half the species that were placed in the wetland died out, and with in two years the wetland had gone completely dry.