Precipitation and temperature are the biggest natural factors impacting wetlands.
Hotter, drier weather and increased use of water for irrigation reduce the supply of water available for wetlands. Lower water levels increase the concentration of pollutants that settle in wetlands.
In Canada, a lot of the water that we find in wetlands comes from melting snow, thanks to our cold winters; however, as the climate warms and our winters become shorter and warmer, wetlands will become increasingly stressed due to declining water availability.
A rise in temperature can also have a significant impact on animal and plant life. For example, rising temperatures may create an ideal habitat for undesirable plant species, like the invasive Purple loosestrife, which has taken hold in many of Canada’s wetlands and roadsides.
Rising temperatures mean that small wetlands will dry up and disappear, while permanent wetlands become only seasonal. This change in habitat will result in the decrease in biodiversity of wetland-associated flora and fauna. Lower water levels in wetlands will result in lower water quality and fewer wetlands will mean more major flooding events.
Wetlands = “nature’s defense system”
- help protect against flooding
- also hold water during periods of drought
- filter pollutants out of the water supply
- store greenhouse gases (carbon) within their plant communities and soil instead of releasing it as carbon dioxide, which aids in moderating climate change.
Information sourced from Environment and Climate Change Canada, Wetlandpolicy.ca, Ducks Unlimited Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.