A Dozen Reasons to Restore Wetlands in Michigan
For more than 20 years, there has been a growing awareness of the many values of Michigan wetlands. The complex role wetlands play in the landscape is still not fully understood, but a number of advantages have been well documented. In some cases, the benefits are to the landowner; in others, they are shared by society as wetlands serve functions of overall environmental improvement.
Improve Water Quality
The cleansing power of wetlands can provide pollution control. Potential for both natural and constructed wetlands to remove nutrients, pesticides and bacteria from surface waters makes them a highly efficient, low-cost alternative for sewage and animal waste treatment. Marsh plants and organisms are known to break down dangerous chemicals into harmless elements. Some wetland plants can also remove salt from the soil.
Wetlands filter and collect sediment from runoff water, helping prevent soil from clogging lakes and reservoirs farther downstream.
Habitat for Wildlife
Both coastal and inland wetlands provide breeding, nesting, and feeding habitat for millions of waterfowl, birds, and wildlife. All of America's wild ducks and geese depend on wetlands. One-half to two-thirds of America's wild ducks are hatched in the prairie pothole marshes. Wetlands in the United State support about 5,000 plant species, 190 species of amphibians and a third of all native bird species.
Reduce Soil Erosion
Because wetlands slow the overland flow of water, they reduce soil erosion along water courses downstream. Some riverine wetlands and adjacent floodplains form natural floodways that convey water downstream more slowly. Coastal wetlands serve to absorb some of the impact of storm tides and waves before they reach upland areas.
Many wetlands store water temporarily, allowing it to percolate into the ground or evaporate. The temporary storage reduces the peak water flow after a storm. This can reduce flooding downstream. When wetlands are filled or drained, flooding downstream is increased.
Wetlands are reservoirs for rainwater and runnoff. Many also release the water they catch slowly into the ground. As they do this, they recharge ground water supplies and extend stream flows that are critical in some parts of the United States.
Wetlands, particularly those in coastal areas and along streams, are an integral part of the cycle of many fish. Northern pike, perch and pan fish rely on wetlands for their survival. In fact, coastal wetlands are the nursery and spawning grounds for 60 to 90 percent of US commercial fish catches.
Enjoy the Outdoors
A growing part of society is willing to pay for hunting opportunities; another group is willing to pay for the opportunity to visit wetlands to watch wildlife and take photographs. Many wetlands offer fishing as well. In addition, the ecological diversity of wetlands can offer one of the most beautiful and aesthetically pleasing features of any landscape.
Despite the physical challenge of timber removal, forested wetlands are an important source of lumber. White cedar and black spruce are among many valuable bottomland trees.
Habitat for Rare, Threatened, or Endangered Species
While wetlands account for only 5 percent of the surface area of the lower 48 states, almost 35 percent of threatened or endangered species either live in or depend on wetlands.
Produce Food, Energy
Cranberries, wild rice, and hay are grown in wetlands, but for the most part, the potential for harvesting marsh vegetation is unrealized. An acre of cattails can produce the same amount of alcohol as an acre of corn, and wetlands have been called the single richest ecosystem for available energy.
Provide a Wetland Legacy
With all their values, wetlands are an important resource to provide for future generations of Americans. The functions that wetlands perform improve the quality of life for everyone.
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Copyright 2014, Michigan Wildlife Conservancy.
PO Box 393, Bath, MI 48808
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