May is American Wetlands Month, and as such it provides an opportunity to explore these amazing places. For too long, wetlands were perceived as wastelands, whose value came only once they were drained and converted to other uses. This was the prevailing view for centuries. In the 1600s, in the area that would later become the lower 48 United States, there were approximately 220 million acres of wetlands. Today, there is less than half that amount remaining.
And yet wetlands are the link between land and water, where the flow of water, the cycling of nutrients and the energy of the sun combine to create a unique ecosystem sometimes called a “nursery of life.” In addition to their importance for the sustainability of terrestrial and aquatic plants and animals, wetlands replenish and clean water. They provide needed rest places for migratory birds, and help reduce the risk of floods. They provide opportunities to get away from our cities and get in touch with the natural world. They are precious resources.
American Wetlands Month was first established in 1990, and it signifies a recognition that wetlands are not wastelands — that they are important to life and to the health of the larger ecosystem. But still more needs to be done to educate about their importance and encourage respect for them. The sad fact is that the United States loses approximately 80,000 acres of wetlands per year.
This alarming figure needs to be turned around. Required is more respect for the natural world, not less. If you can, this month pledge to do your part in protecting America’s wetlands.
One place to start is the petition at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/573485811.
If you would like to learn more about wetlands, Wikipedia has very thorough article, although be warned that it’s slanted towards the biologists among us.