Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Scooby Doo Effect of Wetlands

This wetland near Salt Springs was very photogenic
There are very few places in the wilderness were I feel uneasy and honestly I am a bit embarrassed to let you in on this here.  Recently there has been a great deal of discussion on protecting these areas in New Brunswick and, even as a conservationist, I'm not sure how I feel about it.  So where is this place that makes my skin tingle and the hair stand on the back of my neck?  If you're there you can smell its moisture laden vegetation and soil.  You can feel the softness of the ground as it almost moves under you.  As you pause you would likely hear the gurgle of water beneath you as the mud starts to give way under your feet.  As you look around you will notice the various grasses and shrubs and the large diversity of all things including bugs.

Wetlands are an inspiring place so I have no idea why they make me feel so uncomfortable.  I spend a great deal of time in wet habitat but for some reason I have always felt odd when it wetlands.  I have an elevated fear level when in wetlands and often feel like what you might when you walk through a cemetery.  You know there is really nothing there but for some reason you can't shake the feeling that someone is watching you.  Despite this fear I love exploring wetlands.

The different types of wetlands alone are impressive but add to that diversity the diversity in which you can find when you take the time to get wet and dirty they really can blow you away.  The number of bugs, grasses and flowering plants, mammals that depend on the existence of such ecosystems, and the birds are always present. 

Wetland beauty and value does not end with its diversity and aesthetic wonder.  Wetlands are a valuable component in maintaining hydrologic balances.  They hold water until it is needed, they purify water and keep it clean for consumption by animals, including humans, and they slow the release of flood waters during times of water abundance.  Take a wetland out of the ecological equation and the entire natural system would fall apart.  Fish would no longer have clean water to swim in if they had enough water to swim in at all.  As nice as it might sound many bug populations, including mosquitoes, would likely crash and subsequently many flower and bird populations would also suffer.

This wetland area has all the makings for a horror flick.
The diversity within a wetland is likely one of the reasons I feel uncomfortable there.  I could never become familiar with a wetland as there is simply to much to take in, even in a small woodland bog.  Maybe I shouldn't have watched "Scooby Doo" so much as a child because honestly I think I believe in the marsh monster.  I keep waiting for him to jump out of the open water holes and get me.  Good thing that wetlands are not that diverse. 
Note: The above was a column I had printed in the March 15, 2011 Kings County Record.  Here in New Brunswick there has been a great deal of discussion on wetlands.  I feel they are a valuable part of a healthy environment and can go a long way in protecting infrastructure and housing from flash flood type weather events.  If we continue to fill in our woodland bogs and wetland then we will continue to see municipal areas flooded.  I am not against developing but we have to be responsible in how we develop or existing green spaces, especially those green spaces that can provide cheap and effective green infrastructure, such as wetlands.  This responsibility does not simply lie with the policy makers but everyone, developers, home builders, planners, municipal councils and staff, and many more.

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