Commonly referred to as nature’s kidneys, wetlands provide essential benefits to the people and environment of New York State. Once regarded as wastelands, wetlands were destroyed at an alarming rate. Eventually, the natural value of wetlands was realized, and concerned citizens and scientists persuaded our federal and state governments to enact policies and laws to protect these vital organs of the Earth.
What are wetlands?
Wetlands are the transitional lands between terrestrial and aquatic systems with the water table at or near the surface. Wetlands are found throughout the world. They take many forms and may be freshwater wetlands or saltwater wetlands. They are referred to by names including swamps, marshes, bogs, mires, wet meadows, intermittent streams and ponds, mudflats, sandflats and fens.
The Many Benefits of Wetlands Include:
- Improving Water Quality - Wetlands protect water supplies by intercepting polluted runoff before lakes, rivers, coastal estuaries and aquifers are impacted. Filtration of pollutants is a natural function of wetland ecosystems, improving water quality. They protect drinking water supplies by absorbing contaminants such as pesticides and nitrogen.
- Preserving Biodiversity - Wetlands preserve biodiversity by providing unique habitat to countless species of fish, wildlife and plants. Some animals spend their entire life in wetlands, while others utilize these areas as feeding, breeding and nesting grounds. More than half of all threatened or endangered species depend on wetlands during their lifecycle.
- Avoiding Flood Damage - Billions of dollars in property damage are saved annually by wetlands buffering storm water and absorbing floodwaters.
- Supporting the Economy - Wetlands yield economic benefits by providing essential spawning grounds for commercially valuable fish and shellfish. They also provide essential tourism dollars from aesthetic and recreational opportunities including bird watching and fishing.
Updated by bsmith 7/14/11