A Threatend Resource

You look out the window of the house that you just moved into a few weeks back. Outside is a brand new development with many people who have just moved, like you. You look at your front lawn. It’s flooded with dirty water for the third time this week. “If only there was some way to get rid of that flooding” you think. But there used to be one. Before your subdivision was built, there was a wetland on the very spot you’re standing on.
Wetlands are parts of the Earth that have wet land. There are 3 types of wetlands, marshes, bogs and swamps. These wetlands appear all over the world and are the key to a healthy environment. They are the natural sponges and filters of the Earth. The roots of the many plants and the already wet soil soak up water and help prevent flooding. One acre of wetland can hold 1 to 1½ million gallons of water. The roots of the plants also help filter out dirt and pollutants, the outcome being cleaner water. Wetlands are also home to many animals such as alligators, frogs and fish. But these vital places are being threatened. We need wetlands and, to save them, we must know what’s destroying them. To help the wetlands of the world, we must ask the question, what is destroying wetlands?
Not only do plants play an important part in the life of the wetlands, they give the wetlands of the world distinction from other places. Nowhere else can you find plants like the cattail. They’re a great source of food and a place of shelter for the animals. Dockweeds are also native to wetlands. They float on top of the water and form dense “mats” on the water’s surface. These plants are in danger because of invasive plants. Invasive plants spread and grow rapidly. They can reproduce in mass quantities and tolerate a range of different soils. The common reed, generally known as a Phragmite, is not thought of as an invasive plant by the people who live in the illusion that this is native. Once this plant has established a proper root system, it spreads at an alarming rate and chokes off the plants that make suitable habitats and food sources for the animals. It also reduces the wetlands ability to prevent floods. Phragmites are just one of many invasive plants in the wetlands. The invasive plants leave little to no room for the native ones that help the wetlands.
The animals of the wetlands are also being harmed in the destruction of these important places. 1/3 of all animals on the endangered species list depend on wetlands at some point in their life. Ducks make stops at wetlands on their way south for the winter. Alligators live in them all their lives. Invasive animals do their share in the destruction. Pythons are a huge problem, especially in the Florida Everglades. People get pythons at a pet store and let it go because it gets too big or they can’t afford to feed it. The constrictors move into the wetlands because it has food and shelter. Now, pythons are competing for top predator with the alligators. But they aren’t the only invasive animals out there. Asian carp have taken over almost all of the major river systems in America. They were brought over to help clear the algae in catfish farms along the Mississippi. The river flooded and the fish escaped. The result, an Asian carp take over. They eat all of the algae in a wetland leaving nothing for the smaller fish, the prey of bigger animals. It ends in an ecosystem collapse. Then there are feral pigs or wild hogs. In a government study in Florida, they caused nearly four million dollars worth of damage. They root and trample plants. This can lead to erosion. They prey on bird chicks, reptiles and frogs. Feral pigs, pythons, Asian carp, all of these animals destroy the wetlands we need, but the invasive animals do not stop there. They are not even the worst of the destroyers.
Humans are the number one destroyers of wetlands. With the growing population of humans, pollution is becoming a problem all over the world. Many waste materials like fertilizer, sewage, road salts and heavy metals, take their toll on the wetlands. Wetlands can absorb some pollution, but there is a limit. Runoff from urban and agricultural areas, old landfills and air pollution from cars and factories also help to speed the destruction process along. We also have a habit of filling wetlands for commercial or agricultural use. Filling them with tons and tons of dirt until it’s suitable for human development. This includes housing, roads, and sometimes for shopping malls. But the result is usually flooded roads, parking lots and lawns. Humans also do the opposite of filling in, draining the wetlands for development, farming and mosquito control. But it doesn’t work. The fields will flood, the mosquitoes will come back. It just causes problems for everybody. In peat bogs in Canada, another problem has arisen. The peat is being harvested and sold to gardeners for fertilizer. Without the peat, the bog can’t survive. Humans are by far the largest contributor to wetland destruction.
So what is destroying the wetlands? It is a combination of negligence, ignorance and apathy. Wetlands have done nothing but help us and we’ve returned the favor by introducing invasive species and tearing them apart for our housing needs. Then people hear about the problems and ask why did it happen in the first place? Well, did you know about your home before you moved in? Did you really care about wetlands before you learned what was happening? The true answer for the majority of people, is no. But now, you know. And now that you know what is happening to the wetlands and what needs to be done, help. Do not sit around and wish for things to get better. Ninety-nine out of 100 people sit about wishing. Only one of them will work for the wishes. Help me make that number rise. This world thrives on the doers and the workers, not the wishers and the complainers. Now, will you help me save the wetlands, the foundations of our Earth?





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