Thursday, May 3, 2012

May is American Wetlands Month - How to help Protect these Vital Eco-systems

In addition to being Garden for Wildlife Month, May is also American Wetlands Month, a time “to celebrate the vital importance of wetlands to the Nation's ecological, economic, and social health”.
As gardeners, we play an important role in helping to protect local wetlands.

 What are wetlands? As defined on the EPA website: “Wetlands are the link between the land and the water. They are transition zones where the flow of water, the cycling of nutrients, and the energy of the sun meet to produce a unique ecosystem characterized by hydrology, soils, and vegetation—making these areas very important features of a watershed.” Benefits of wetlands:  
  • Animal habitat – Wetlands provide habitat for plants and animals in the watershed.
  • Water storage - When rivers overflow, wetlands help to absorb and slow floodwaters helping to prevent damage from floods.
  • Water filtration - Wetlands also absorb excess nutrients, sediment, and other pollutants before they reach rivers, lakes, and other water bodies.
  • Recreation - They are great spots for fishing, canoeing, hiking, and bird-watching, and they make wonderful outdoor classrooms for people of all ages.
But the bad news is, despite all the benefits provided by wetlands, the United States loses about 60,000 acres of wetlands each year. The very runoff that wetlands help to clean can overload and contaminate these fragile ecosystems. As a homeowner, you can help protect wetlands by following other steps that help to prevent polluted stormwater runoff.
  • Plant native vegetation in your yard
  • Eliminate or limit your use of harmful fertilizers and pesticides which can pollute nearby waterways
  • Plant native grasses or forested buffer strips along wetlands on your property to protect water quality
  • Direct all downspouts to porous surfaces rather than solid surfaces such as driveways
  • Create swales (small dips in the ground) and berms (raised earthen areas) to help divert runoff to porous surfaces.
  • Install rain barrels
  • Incorporate porous surfaces Whenever possible, use bricks, gravel, turf block, mulch, pervious concrete or other porous materials for walkways, driveways or patios.
For more information: Build a wetland in your backyard. Learn how by visiting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s web site page: Backyard Wetland Wetlands Walk: A Guide to Wetlands and Wildlife Sanctuaries in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area EPA Wetlands Page

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