Wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems on the planet.
What is a wetland?
Wetlands are land that is temporarily or permanently covered with shallow water. Types of wetlands that you might be familiar with are marshes, swamps, and bogs, though each of these has its own defining characteristics.
Wetlands are sometimes referred to as “nature’s kidneys” because they filter the excess nutrients, sediment and pollutants from our water.
Did you know…?
- Canada is home to 23% of the world’s wetlands, which cover 14% of the country’s land area.
- The Prairie Pothole Region, approximately 715 000 km2 of land stretching across the southern Prairie provinces and across the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota and Montana, is some of the most productive habitat for waterfowl in North America. This vast region consists of millions of ‘pots’ (shallow depressions) that fill with water from rain and melting snow.
- The PPR is nicknamed the “Duck Factory”, because millions of waterfowl breed in the area annually. In fact, the PPR “…is home to 12 of the most common North American duck species. For 8 of these species, up to 50% of the North American population is supported by this habitat.” (Ducks Unlimited Canada, “Prairie Pothole Region.”)
Importance of Wetlands
Wetlands are important, not only as part of a healthy ecosystem, but because of the ecological benefits that they provide. Wetlands:
- improve water quality by filtering sediments and pollutants;
- reduce flood damage and erosion by slowing run-off and absorbing the impact of high water levels and large waves;
- provide important food and habitat for many species of wildlife;
- slow the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by retaining carbon;
- offer recreational opportunities for hunting, fishing and birdwatching.
One of the leading causes of wetland loss is the conversion of land to agricultural use – wetlands are drained and filled in to allow crops to be planted. This has led to an estimated loss of 85% of our wetlands in the last 2 centuries. Other causes of wetland loss result from residential development and infrastructure, among others.
Much of the above Information was provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Ducks Unlimited Canada.