An effort to restore wetlands throughout the United States and the United Kingdom is currently underway. As part of the Associated Press’ “What Can Be Saved?” series, the video below details this environmental reclamation endeavor.
Referred to as “ghost ponds,” wetland habitats were filled in or drained so that the land could be used for human residential or agricultural development. The AP reports that nearly 90% of the world’s wetlands disappeared within the last three centuries. Naturally occurring wetlands include ponds, freshwater swamps, bogs, and marshes. Since the 1970s, wetlands have disappeared three times faster than forests. Chris Flann of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told AP reporter, “this is just as big of an issue as saving the rainforests in South America.”
According to the AP, the loss of wetland habitat impacts nearly 5,000 species of mammals, birds, and amphibians. Additionally, plowing over wetlands increases flooding potential, reduces groundwater recharge, and affects carbon sequestration.
Smaller-sized wetlands, referred to as “prairie potholes,” exist by the thousands across the prairie lands of the United States. While they’re an essential habitat for migrating waterfowl and many other wildlife species, farmers consider them a nuisance. Tractors can sink in the potholes, and newly planted seeds and young crops can rot due to the excess moisture. So, they’re typically drained or plowed over.
The opposition of the reclamation efforts comes from farmers who need to maximize their land for profit. Farmer Barton Schott told AP reporters, “it’s the crop of the younger generation, and I’ve got to think ahead.” The AP article states that Iowa has lost 99% of its wetlands and Minnesota has lost 95%.
There is some hope that moving forward farmers and these vital habits can coexist. In one case detailed by the AP, restoring ditches on pastureland helped grasses grow more rapidly, which not only provided a food source for cattle but also removed the fear of drought. There is still much work to be done to support these efforts both on local and federal levels.
Source: Associated Press