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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Conservation: Nature's Multipurpose Habitats

Wetlands provide a host of benefits in addition to their waterfowl habitat value
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• Wetlands are used for recreation. As any waterfowler will tell you, wetlands are great places to hunt, fish, trap, boat, shoot photos, and watch wildlife. Collectively, hunting and wildlife watching generate more than $70 billion annually in economic activity. Recreational fishing is also highly dependent on productive wetlands, and the nation's anglers spend more than $42 billion each year on their hobby. 

Of course, most waterfowlers couldn't hunt at all without wetlands. A variety of wetland types—from prairie potholes and playa lakes to cypress swamps and shallow bays—play a crucial role in producing and supporting waterfowl throughout the year, and waterfowlers pursue the birds in all of these diverse habitats. 

• Wetlands reduce flooding and protect against storms. Wetlands associated with rivers and lakes capture and retain water, shortening the duration and reducing the severity of floods. Coastal wetlands serve as "horizontal levees" that protect homes, industry, and entire communities from devastating storm surges and high winds. In the United States, the protection provided by coastal wetlands has an estimated economic value of $23.2 billion a year. This benefit alone makes conserving and restoring coastal wetlands an excellent investment. 

• Wetlands improve water quality. Wetland soils and plants play a significant role in purifying water by removing nitrogen, phosphorus, and in some cases toxic chemicals. Wetlands also slow water flows, allowing sediment to settle out of the water column, making water clearer and cleaner downstream. A South Carolina study found that without the Congaree bottomland hardwood swamp, residents in this area would have to build a $5 million water-treatment facility to purify and filter their water supply. 

Similarly, DU Canada's groundbreaking research in Manitoba's Broughton's Creek watershed revealed that a 21 percent decline in wetlands there resulted in a 31 percent increase in nutrients flowing into Lake Manitoba. That's the equivalent of 114 tons of phosphorus, or a half-million bags of fertilizer, dumped into the lake each year. Restoring wetlands makes great sense from a water-quality perspective, and the benefit to waterfowl and other wildlife is an added bonus. 

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