As much as 90 percent of the sediments that are present in runoff or in streamflow may be removed if the water passes through wetlands. Also, because pollutants, such as heavy metals, are attached to soil particles, the settling of sediments in wetlands further improves water quality. Nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural and lawn fertilizers, pet waste, sewer and septic systems, and other sources can act as plant fertilizers in natural water bodies and stimulate excessive plant, algae, and cyanobacteria growth.
Such growth may produce toxic chemicals and choke out natural vegetation and wildlife. When runoff and stream flow pass through wetlands before entering a water body, these nutrients may be taken up by wetland plants and accumulate in less harmful chemical forms. When wetland plants die and decay, nutrients are recycled within the wetland.
Wetlands are so effective at removing excess nutrients from water that many municipalities have built wetlands specifically for treating effluent from secondary sewage treatment plants. Natural wetlands are not suited for this purpose and for each wetland there is a limit to how much can be added before the natural plant and chemical processes are overloaded and break down. Some of the toxic chemicals carried into a wetland in runoff are trapped along with settled soil particles.
Some of these pollutants may be buried in the sediments, while others may be converted into less harmful chemical forms by biological processes or by exposure to sunlight for extended periods. Still other pollutants may be taken up by the plants. Some freshwater wetlands are located at points where surface water enters an underground aquifer, thereby recharging groundwater supplies.
Wetlands are more often points of groundwater discharge to the surface of the land, such as springs. The groundwater discharge may be important as a local drinking water source or important for providing stream flows for fish, animals, plants, and other organisms that live on or near the stream during dry summer months. According to the Vermont Wetland Rules , wetlands that make an important contribution to the protection or enhancement of the quality of surface or of ground water are significant wetlands.
In determining whether a wetland is significant for the Surface and Ground Water Protection function,the Secretary or Panel shall, at a minimum, consider the extent to which it:. Recharges a drinking water source, such as a well head or source protection area. To replace these wetland ecosystem services enormous amounts of money have been spent on purification plants and remediation measures, constructing dams, leaves and other artificial flood controls.
Balancing wetland conservation with the needs of people Wetlands are vital ecosystems that also provide livelihoods for the millions of people who live within and around them. The Millennium Development Goals MDGs called for different sectors to join forces to secure wetland environments in the context of sustainable development and improving human wellbeing. Case studies conducted in Malawi and Zambia looked at how dambos — wet, grassy valleys or depressions where water seeps to the surface — can be farmed sustainably to improve livelihoods.
When mismanaged or overused dambos often become degraded, which was starting to happen at the study sites. Project staff took knowledge from local farmers on how specific dambos functioned, and then trained them in relevant soil and water management practices, emphasizing the fact that dambos need to be managed in the context of the wider environment.
Before the project, there were cases where people had died from starvation due to food shortages.
By the end of it, many more people had access to sufficient water to grow vegetables. A key achievement was that villagers had secure food supplies during long, dry months. They also benefitted from other spin-offs. For example, they gained better nutrition through growing a wider range of crops and were also able to invest in health and education by selling produce and saving money. Ramsar Convention The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat, or Ramsar Convention, is an international treaty designed to address global concerns regarding wetland loss and degradation.
The primary purposes of the treaty are to list wetlands of international importance and to promote their wise use, with the ultimate goal of preserving the world's wetlands. Methods include restricting access to the majority portion of wetland areas, as well as educating the public to combat the misconception that wetlands are wastelands.
How does Ramsar designation protect wetlands?
The Convention works closely with five International Organization Partners. The partners provide technical expertise, help conduct or facilitate field studies and provide financial support. Wetlands now have a degree of protection under the Resource Management Act. South Africa The South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism in conjunction with the departments of Water Affairs and Forestry, and of Agriculture, supports the conservation and rehabilitation of wetlands through the Working for Wetlands program.
Wetlands and agriculture | Department of the Environment and Energy
The aim of this program is to encourage the protection, rehabilitation and sustainable use of South African wetlands through co-operative governance and partnerships. The program is also a poverty relief effort, providing employment in wetland maintenance. VMI has surveyed the wetlands of Sweden below the alpine region during a year period. In total 35 objects sites are included in VMI, corresponding to an area of 4. The aim of the survey has been to increase the general knowledge of wetlands in Sweden, as a basis for environmental monitoring and natural resources planning.
By investigating the impact of human activities on wetlands and identifying the most valuable wetlands, their values can be preserved for future generations. The results from the inventory were also meant to function as background data for the authorities' decisions concerning e. One example is the project by the U.
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Army Corps of Engineers to control flooding and enhance development by taming the Everglades, a project which has now been reversed to restore much of the wetlands as a natural habitat for plant and animal life, as well as a method of flood control. Another project in the works to restore the Everglades is the U. S Sugar Corp Land Transaction. The project entails the acquisition of U.
Future improvements in wetland vegetation mapping could include the use of more recent and better geospatial data. Many of the world's wetlands are in temperate zones midway between the North and South Poles and the equator. In these zones, summers are warm and winters are cold, but temperatures are not extreme. However, wetlands found in the tropic zone, which is around the equator, are always warm. Rainfall The amount of rainfall a wetland receives depends upon its location.
Wetlands in Wales, Scotland, and Western Ireland receive about cm 59 in per year. Those in Southeast Asia, where heavy rains occur, can receive up to cm in In the northern areas of North America, wetlands exist where as little as 18 centimet ers 6 inches of rain fall each month.
They help to retain water during dry periods, thus keeping the water table high and relatively stable. During periods of flooding, they act to reduce flood levels and to trap suspended solids and nutrients to the lakes than if they flow directly into the lakes. The removal of such wetland systems because of urbanization or other factors typically causes lake water quality to worsen.
In addition, wetlands are important feeding, breeding, and drinking areas for wildlife and provide a stopping place and refuge for waterfowl. As with any natural habitat, wetlands are important in supporting species diversity and have a complex and important food web. The recent millennium assessment of ecosystems puts freshwater biodiversity as the most threatened of all types of biodiversity.
How are they threatened? Absence of reliable and updated information and data on extent of wetlands, their conservation values and socioeconomic importance has greatly hampered development of policy, legislation and administrative interventions by the state. Why do we need to map wetlands? For the long-term conservation planning of wetlands, spatial data and information is required for any intervention. Wetland eco-system constitute an integral part of cultural and biodiversity landscape of India.
It is estimated that 3.
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However, this information pertains to wetlands above 56ha in size. Past research on wetland conservation in the country has shown conclusively that micro wetlands or satellite wetlands around a bigger wetland act as a constellation of habitat mosaic for resident and migratory waterfowl. This is of special importance for inland wetland habitats in the flyways of migratory birds in the Indo-Gangetic plains and in Deccan peninsula. Spatial information on wetlands resources is a critical and an urgently needed for an effective conservation of these important eco-systems. Use of advanced spatial technology tools or a country like India, with its vast biological and cultural diversity, a comprehensive use of remote sensing, GIS and other related technologies will be of great use in conservation.
Classifying and mapping wetlands based on geomorphology, water quality and other biological attribute can lead to qualitative assessment. Results obtained could be used in planning, inventorying and monitoring wetlands in the country.