Wetlands are rightly valued for their high levels of biodiversity. In U.S. conservation politics they may perhaps be a bit overrepresented in comparison to other habitat types due to their attractiveness for waterfowl hunting. However, this is hardly their only function. In addition to supplying year-round habitat for numerous resident and migratory birds, wetlands work to improve water quality and protect human settlements from flooding, at least in areas where wetlands are still intact.
Despite their ecological and economic functions, wetlands are constantly under threat. New developments may fragment or burden wetlands with additional pollution. Rising sea levels and land subsidence eat away at coastal sites. Meanwhile, nitrates from fertilizer runoff change the species composition. In recent decades, state and federal governments have slowed the loss of wetlands, but many remain vulnerable.
To celebrate the role of wetlands and raise awareness of the many problems, the EPA has declared May to be American Wetlands Month. So what is a wetland?
Wetlands are the vital link between land and water, where the flow of water, the cycling of nutrients, and the energy of the sun meet to produce highly productive ecosystems with unique plant and animal life. Wetlands may not be wet year-round. In fact, some of the most important wetlands are seasonally dry transition zones. They are among the most valuable, but often least understood, wetland resources.To celebrate this month, I am creating a wetlands top ten list. These are simply my ten favorite wetland sites out of the places I have visited. As such, they will no doubt leave out vast swaths of the country (and the world), so I invite readers to list their own favorites either in comments or on their own blogs.
Wetlands Top Ten
- Great Swamp (NJ)
- Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens (DC)
- Hughes Hollow (MD)
- South Cape May Meadows (NJ)
- Cumberland Salt Marshes (NJ)
- Blackwater NWR (MD)
- Bombay Hook NWR (DE)
- Trenton Marsh (NJ)
- Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (NY)
- Bolinas Lagoon (CA)