May is American Wetlands Month, a time to celebrate the essential role wetlands play in our environment. Wetlands are complex ecosystems that provide numerous benefits to society.
They are the most biologically productive ecosystems in the Great Lakes watershed and in Northern Michigan.
Bogs, marshes, swamps, vernal pools, fens, peatlands, wet meadows and prairies, Great Lakes interdunal swales, and aquatic beds – wetlands are the unsung heroes of our ecosystems.
They are critical to our environmental, ecological, and socioeconomic health.
What exactly does a wetland do? Wetlands control flooding by acting as a sponge.
They decrease flood peaks and safeguard downstream property owners.
They temporarily store flood waters and replenish groundwater supplies. They retain or remove nutrients and pollutants, and they provide vital habitat to fish, wildlife, and waterfowl.
In their natural condition, wetlands associated with rivers and lakes function as a barrier to erosion.
“Wetlands are indispensable for the countless benefits ranging from providing habitat for birds, fish, and other wildlife to groundwater recharge and climate change mitigation,” said Gail Gruenwald, Executive Director for Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council. “We work diligently to protect, restore, and advocate for the wetlands in our area and throughout the Great Lakes region.”
In the most recent survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan has lost 50% of its original wetlands.
The percentage of Michigan’s coastal wetlands that have been lost is even greater–70%. In total over 5,600,000 acres of wetlands have been damaged or destroyed in Michigan.
In recent years, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council has restored thousands of feet of Northern Michigan shorelines, assisted local governments in writing watershed management plans to protect these sensitive areas, and provided countless opportunities to engage and educate the community about the importance of these vital transitional areas between land and water.
Created in 1991, American Wetlands Month helps encourage a better understanding of these ecosystems that are so vital to healthy environments.
The annual celebration, now in its 25th year, inspires people to work throughout the year to protect, preserve, and expand wetlands.
To learn more about what you can do to protect our wetlands, visit our website at http://www.watershedcouncil.org/wetlands.
Interested in exploring some local wetlands this spring and summer? The Little Traverse Conservancy http://landtrust.org/your-nature-preserves/ and the Walloon Lake Trust and Conservancy http://www.walloon.org/preserves-6/ have some great options.