What are wetlands?
Wetlands are a part of the ecosystem which posses several physical features. These will set it in the gap between the wildlife and where the water is contained. This unique habitat is found where both water and soil interact to support both plant and animal life. They constitute those areas saturated with either ground or surface water. Which will support heavy vegetation adapted to life in such condition. Just as the rainforest and coral reefs, wetlands serve as one of the most vital and productive ecosystems in the globe. They are utilized by several species of organisms at different stages of their life cycle. Wetlands are rich in decaying organic matters which forms an important food source for small lives such as the fish and other aquatic insects. In fact, it is transmitting energy across the food web.
Apart from their support for various life forms, the wetland ecosystems provide lots of benefits to man. They constitute major solutions to most environmental challenges or disasters facing man today. One prominent disaster is flood which can cause drastic effects in most parts of the globe. This includes the urban as well as the rural settlements. Flood can result from the following:
- River overflow which happens when the volume of water upstream is higher than usual as it flows downstream.
- Ice and snow-melts which occurs when the temperature rises to melt ice that has accumulated over the winter period.
- Rains more than the drainage system can sustain either heavy in a short period or light over a long period.
- Strong winds in coastal areas such as hurricane which carry seawater onto dry coastal lands.
- High levels of impervious surfaces which prevent water from sipping through the surface into the subsoil.
Generally, wetlands function as natural sponges or bowels. Whereas they soak up and retain water for a period till it begins to infiltrate into the ground. It implies that water excess from a flood, regardless of the cause, will be contained in this ecosystem. Whereas it will slowly be released back into the ground containment. This is very important especially in the urban settings where most of the runoff take their source from previous withdrawals from the groundwater. The vegetation as an important aspect of the wetland ecosystem helps drastically turn down the speed of water as it flows over to the drylands.
Wetlands found within downstream premises of urban settlements play a vital role in deterring the highly increased rate of flow and volume of runoff taking its source form elevations as well as buildings. The retention capacity of wetland ecosystem is important in the prevention of flood. However, preservation of wetland ecosystem and other water retention practices constitutes a perfect and cheap option rather than the cost-effective dredge operations.
With the increasing sea levels enhanced by global warming amassing the threats of possible storminess in various parts of the world, the role of coastal wetlands is definitely indispensable. But it’s unfortunate that even the existing wetlands today are seriously under threat of development while the rest are pushed into extinction. The role of wetlands in the prevention of flood remains unarguable. We need to see what we can do to help save our wetlands.
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