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Eco-Explainer: What Are Wetlands and How to Take Care of Them
Water

Eco-Explainer: What Are Wetlands and How to Take Care of Them

The Importance of Our Wetlands

Over one-third of endangered species in the US exclusively live in wetlands, and almost half use the wetlands at some point or habitats, according to the EPA.

Wetlands in urban areas like Philly are particularly important to the ecosystem since their larger water capacities help control flooding in the city, counteracting water runoff from buildings in the area.

So, What is a Wetland?

A wetland is a saturated land area where water covers near or directly at the soil’s surface. They can occur either year-round or at times. Wetlands are found everywhere (except Antarctica) and there are two general categories: coastal (tidal) or inland (non-tidal).

They look different across the globe- because of differences in things like soil, vegetation, and climate.

The wetlands are essential to our ecosystem, acting as a source of water and habitat for supporting various species like plants, insects, birds, fish, etc.

Dead plant leaves and stems growing near wetlands are broken down in the water, creating organic material hat feeds small fish and aquatic insects.

They also fight climate change! Wetlands also help to balance the climate by storing carbon instead of releasing it as carbon dioxide and improve the water quality.

EPA 50 Philadelphia Flower Show 2020 Exhibit
EPA exhibit of Wetlands at 2020 Flower Show

Wetland Gain & Loss in PA

The state of Pennsylvania went from having 1,127,000 acres with wetlands to 499,014 acres over a 200-year period according to the USFWS Report, which is over a 55% decrease.

This is bad for several reasons. See: invasive species, wetland loss (fewer wetlands filtering pollutants = more pollutants in wetlands), and increased erosion.

So now that we understand why we need to care about our wetlands, there’s good news. There’s a few things you can do to help them!

5 Ways To Get Involved In Saving The Wetlands

Here are a few suggestions Spur Tribe recommends for taking part in aiding wetlands:

  1. Join or donate to programs that help protect wetlands in the Philly area like the Pennsylvania State Wetland Program
  2. Report illegal activities like dumping waste into local wetlands.
  3. Use non-toxic products when cleaning your house from companies like Bon Ami or Biokleen.
  4. Use laundry and dishwasher detergents without phosphates from companies like Dropps or Seventh Generation. Phosphates support algae growth, harming aquatic life living in the wetlands
  5. Pick up litter that will end up in storm drains and eventually wetlands.

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Jamie McClelland
Jamie is a junior at Villanova University double majoring in English and Communications with a specialization in Media Production. She is currently an Editorial Intern at Green Philly. In her spare time she enjoys writing poetry and short stories, along with watching movies and exploring Philly. View all posts by Jamie McClelland

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