Monday, May 14, 2012

Interesting facts about wetlands

Wetlands are land areas where water is the main controlling factor of the entire surrounding environment. Wetlands are extremely important because they represent the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems. This means that by preserving wetlands we are also preserving our planet's rich biodiversity.

According to the latest study by French scientists the area of the globe covered by wetlands is constantly shrinking and has decreased by 6% in the last two decades. The main reason why wetlands are shrinking is the human population growth.

World's largest wetland is located in Brazil's Pantanal region but is constantly shrinking because of the increased industrial and agricultural activity.

Wetlands have many important functions such as: reducing the impact of flooding and protect subsurface water resources, they help recharge ground water supplies, control erosion, store large amount of greenhouse gases (about 771 billion tons of greenhouses gases ) and of course provide breeding, nesting and feeding grounds to variety of different species.

The scientists say that approximately 60 percent of world's wetlands have been destroyed in the last 100 years, mostly to provide room for new farms. Wetlands currently cover less than 5% of Earth's land surface.

Restoring wetlands to original state is very difficult because restored wetlands very rarely have the same properties like original wetlands. The restored wetland may never be restored to its original state. This is mostly because of the plants that need much longer period of time to return to normal and establish the carbon resources in the soil that make for a healthy ecosystem. Preservation of the current wetlands is therefore much better solution than restoring destroyed wetlands.

Learning more knowledge about wetlands is essential for not just assessing climate change effects but also to learn about water resource management and how to preserve water supplies for our future generations.

Scientists fear that many coastal wetlands will disappear before the end of this century because of the increased climate change impact in form of sea level rise. The loss of these wetlands this will cause tremendous damage since they are extremely multi-functional and play so many vital roles such as „absorbing energy from coastal storms, preserving shorelines, protecting human populations and infrastructure, supporting commercial seafood harvests, absorbing pollutants and serving as critical habitat for migratory bird populations “ (Glenn Guntenspergen, American Geophysical Union).

According to the UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment „environmental degradation is more prominent within wetland systems than with any other ecosystem on Earth“.

Wetlands need more protection and better monitoring because preserving wetlands means preserving the health of our entire environment.