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DEPLETION OF WETLANDS

"Wetlands" is a general term used to describe areas that are always or often saturated by enough surface or groundwater to sustain vegetation that is typically adapted to saturated soil conditions, such as cattails, bulrushes, red maples, wild rice, blackberries, cranberries, and peat moss. Because some varieties of wetlands are rich in minerals and nutrients and provide many of the advantages of both land and water environments, they are often dynamic systems that teem with a diversity of species, including many insectsa basic link in the food chain. There are several distinct forms of wetlands, each with its own unique characteristics. The main factors that distinguish each type of wetland are location (coastal or inland), source of water (precipitation, rivers and streams, groundwater), salinity (freshwater or saltwater), and the dominant type of vegetation (peat mosses, soft-stemmed, or woody plants). Wetlands are a continuum in which plant life changes gradually from predominantly aquatic to predominantly upland species. The difficulty in defining the exact point at which a wetland ends and upland begins often results in much of the confusion as to how wetlands should be regulated.

Purpose of Wetlands
Food and Habitat Waterfowl and freshwater and saltwater fish rely on wetlands for reproduction, and shelter every year Atlantic fish and shellfish that humans consume depend on wetlands for some part of their life cycle Inland wetlands also serve as way stations for migrating birds. Used for as a place of rest and food during migration. Without the stopover at the 30,000-acre region in the north central United States and south central Canada the flight to their Arctic breeding grounds would be impossible. Wetlands are a source of food and habitat for numerous game and nongame animals Coastal marshes and some inland freshwater wetlands boast some of the highest rates of plant productivity of any natural ecosystem, thus supporting abundant animal populations within the food chain

Protection against floods

Wetlands swell and absorb during heavy spring runoffs Isolated and floodplain wetlands can reduce the frequency of flooding in downstream areas by temporarily storing runoff water.

Recreational and Aesthetic value Popular recreational activities, including fishing, hunting, and canoeing, occur in wetlands. Wetland areas provide open space, an important but increasingly scarce commodity.

Protect against erosion Roots from the wetlands grasses, sedges, and cattails help to hold shoreline and loose earth together. They also lessen the effect of coastal storms especially mangroves and coastal forests.

Water supply and purification Wetlands can temporarily or permanently trap pollutants such as excess nutrients, toxic chemicals, suspended materials, and disease-causing microorganismsthus cleansing the water that flows over and through them. Water table water is cleaned as it is passed from wetland through layers of rock to the aquifer

Commercial Fishing Certain aspects of farm fishing, which uses natural waterways to harvest fish for human consumption and pharmaceuticals.

Challenges
Agricultural Impact -Trade Off between intensive use of wetlands and growing demand for crop production. The challenge for the next 25 years will be that food production will have to increase by another 50 % merely to match the projected growth of the population. Given that at present there are still food shortages, and that the food habits of large parts of the human population are starting to shift to be more animal-based, the pressure to produce more food per area, as well as to reclaim more land for agriculture, is expected to increase strongly.

Another trend that will result in additional demands for agricultural land and increasing production is the increasing use of first-generation biofuels as an alternative energy source to fossil fuels. All these developments together will inevitably lead to reclamation of natural or marginally used land for intensive crop production. Intensive agricultural use of wetlands has definitely altered their ecological character, because the growth of crops or raising of livestock necessitates reclamation measures such as drainage or tillage. Increased urban \ industrial development Converting wetlands through drainage and development have contributed to the issue of irregular flood control through forced adaption of water channels to narrower corridors due to loss of wetland area. These new channels must manage the same amount of precipitation causing flood peaks to be [higher or deeper] and floodwaters to travel faster. Increased groundwater usage Groundwater is an important source of water for drinking and irrigation of crops. Over 1 billion people in Asia and 65% of the public water sources in Europe source 100% of their water from groundwater. Irrigation is a massive use of groundwater with 80% of the worlds groundwater used for agricultural production Increased population around coasts The sheer number of people who live and work near the coast is expected to grow immensely over the next 50 years. From an estimated 200 million people that currently live in low-lying coastal regions, the development of urban coastal centers is projected to increase the population by 5 fold within 50 years. Increased use for urban development Given the severe environmental deterioration of many river basins, with increasing water use for urban development and irrigated agriculture, there are many initiatives calling for a more sustainable water resource management to restore natural flooding and to reserve so-called environmental flows to enhance floodplain fertility and river fisheries and at the same time protect river floodplain biodiversity Hydrophytes as threats Introduced hydrophytes in different wetland systems can have devastating results. The introduction of water hyacinth, a native plant of South America into Lake Victoria in East Africa as well as duckweed into non-native areas of Queensland, Australia, have overtaken entire wetland systems suffocating the ecosystem due to

their phenomenal growth rate and ability to float and grow on the surface of the water.

Opportunities
Research and development aimed at better crop production. The use of new, more flood-tolerant crop varieties may help to find sustainable solutions where agriculture, wetland ecosystem services and biodiversity can all benefit. In addition, it should be evaluated whether less intensive forms of agriculture could be used in (semi-)natural wetlands and lead to higher food production in a sustainable way, leaving intact species-rich wetland landscapes with additional benefits. Research in crop science has shown a range of crop varieties that have better water logging tolerance than the regular cultivars. Combinations of local crop growing, fish production and grazing are being practiced in a semi-natural setting. In such cases, natural wetlands are used for agricultural production without complete reclamation, leaving the natural hydrological processes partly intact. Such systems do not necessarily lead to complete loss of the other regulating and supporting wetland functions and services (including biodiversity). These systems could be optimized to produce more food per unit of (wet) land surface area while conserving the wetland, leaving its hydrology intact as much as possible and protecting its functions, including its biodiversity. Initiatives like Ramsar to be encouraged. Ramsar is an intergovernmental treaty started in Iran in 1971 to promote world wetland day and fund grant programs. The 2 important goals embodied by member countries are first maintaining the ecological character of their wetlands of international importance, secondly planning for the wise use or sustainable use, of all the wetlands in their territories. Another example is Sweden Wetland conservation which maintains a sweden national wetland inventory. Protection of Wetlands through Assignment of a Designated Use The level of protection provided should conform to the designated use established for a wetland, for example, aquatic life support or recreation. These coincide with two basic levels of protection recognized by environmental planners, preservation and conservation. Aquatic life support and wetland preservation connote a greater degree of protection, and involve, at most, passive use by humans (e.g., aesthetic enjoyment, wildlife observation). The recreation designated use, and wetland conservation status, connote a lesser degree of protection than do aquatic life support and preservation, on the level of protecting essential functions while allowing compatible human uses, such as recreational uses.

Buffers and Other Protective Measures for Wetlands A buffer typically consists of a band of vegetation along the perimeter of a wetland or water body, preferably natural habitat, but including previously altered, stable native or introduced species. Once the need for a buffer is recognized, establishment of a suitable width is the critical task. In reality, many government agencies establish buffer requirements based on political acceptability and/or assumed aquatic resource functional value. Constructed Wetlands for Animal Wastewater Treatment Use of constructed wetland systems for confined animal wastewater has gained momentum in recent years, yet is still largely in the experimental stages. The major treatment concerns for these systems are BOD, ammonia, suspended solids, phosphorus, fecal coliforms, and sometimes metals added to feeds. The most problematic constituent seems to be ammonia; because of very high influent BOD levels, practically the entire wetland water column is essentially anoxic, inhibiting the aerobic nitrification step that must take place before denitrification and gaseous nitrogen release can occur. Very good nitrogen removals can occur with prior dilution or some form of aeration. Silvicultural Exemption To minimize impacts to wetlands, harvesting must be managed carefully. "Minor drainage" can be permitted, but ditches that significantly alter the hydrology of a wetland may not be constructed. In terms of specific practices, road and skid trails should be minimized in number, width, and length. They should be located sufficiently far from water flow, or be bridged, so as not to impede or increase water flow or contribute to stagnation. Trails should be maintained to prevent erosion. Low ground pressure vehicles and aerial logging reduce the soil compaction and hydrologic modifications resulting from heavy equipment and road construction. Pesticides with high toxicity to aquatic life should be avoided, and slow release fertilizer formulations based on soil tests should be used Innovative Management Degraded, prior converted wetlands may offer opportunities for innovative management approaches (which may require permitting). The hydrologic cycle of a bottomland hardwood forest can be simulated by winter impoundment of a prior converted or degraded swamp or area planted in flood-tolerant tree species. The crayfish are harvested in the spring and summer. Such a system can restore bottomland hardwood community structure and provide water quality benefits of nutrient removal. Inflow of toxic compounds must be monitored closely, however, because crayfish accumulate them. Since timber rotations are long, generally 20 - 50

years, this system can provide wildlife habitat as well, particularly if it is not intensively managed.

Other initiatives include helping maintain the carrying capacity of wetlands locally and protecting wetland from water pollution Contribute towards artificial wetlands Constructed wetlands can treat wastewater from a variety of sources. One of the more common uses is to provide additional or advanced treatment of wastewater from homes, businesses and even communities. Wetlands treat wastewater that has already had most of the solid materials removed from it through some type of primary or secondary treatment.