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My Water Quality: Aquatic Ecosystem Health - Wetlands

What Services Do Our Wetlands Provide?

wetland

We also talk about wetland types to distinguish between the services that each can provide to us. The California Aquatic Resource Classification System (CARCS) provides information about the likely functions or services of different wetlands. Tidal wetlands (estuarine, marine) serve to stabilize shorelines by binding the soils along the shoreline together with strong systems of plant roots. They also provide storm protection by creating a natural barrier to the elements and shielding coastal communities. Wetland vegetation works as a sediment trap and locks up nutrients and contaminants, thereby preventing concentration downstream that can result in algal blooms or human health hazards. Riverine and lacustrine wetlands help stabilize channel banks and lake shores, and help reduce flood hazards through the storage of flood flows during extreme weather events.

Newport Bay Estuary
Orange County, CA
Newport Bay Estuary in Orange County, California
(click to enlarge)

 

 

A Rice Field
rice field
(click to enlarge)
Oysters Oysters

Depressional wetlands are especially important for recharging groundwater aquifers. Many kinds of wetlands act as natural water purifiers, filtering and sequestering sediment and pollutants. Two-thirds or more of all the fish and most of the shellfish we consume are dependent on coastal wetlands, and products that are harvested from wetlands include medicinal plants and rice. Many of these agricultural areas also serve as habitat for wildlife.



San Francisco Bay Trail
San Francisco Bay Trail
(click to enlarge)

Wetlands, which host thriving communities of plants and animals, also provide great recreational, aesthetic, and cultural value to local residents who like to hike, hunt, fish, birdwatch, and photograph wildlife. Cultural values of wetlands are especially important to California's indigenus tribes. Many traditional foods, art and craft materials, and ceremonial settings are found in or around wetlands, providing links to these tribes' ancient heritage. It’s estimated that the annual economic value of wetlands statewide in California is between $6.3 and $22.9 billion. Wetlands must be managed well both now and in the future, or we risk losing all these essential services. This will be challenging since wetlands are among the most vulnerable ecosystems to climate change on Earth according to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

( Updated 9/20/13 )