Encompassing just 6% of the Earth’s land surface, wetlands support the lifecycle needs of 40% of all plant and animal species. Wetlands are considered one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, on par with tropical forests and coral reefs. They provide life-sustaining habitat for thousands of diverse species of plants and animals, including at least a third of the nation’s threatened and endangered species and more than 900 North American bird species.
Wetlands are considered “biological supermarkets,” providing great volumes of food that attract a diverse mix of species. Wetland plants attract insects and provide cover for birds and other animal species. Dying plant material falls into the water and mixes with algae circulating in the water column to start a food chain that supports everything from the smallest to the largest wetland-dependent creatures. This resulting “wetland soup” feeds many small aquatic invertebrates, shellfish and small fish that are food for larger predatory fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals.
All wetlands are not the same. Climate, landscape position, geology, basin morphology, chemistry and the movement and abundance of water help to determine the plants and animals that inhabit each wetland. Pothole wetlands in the U.S. and Canadian prairies are critical to millions of breeding and migratory waterfowl, migratory song and shore birds, and economically important pollinators. Coastal wetlands and seagrass beds, that are so vital to many species of waterfowl, also support the sport and commercial fin and shellfish industries. The dense vegetation of coastal marshes shelters juvenile fish from predators and strong currents while providing a rich food source. Anadromous fish, like salmon, sturgeon and herring spend much of their life in saltwater habitats but return to fresh and brackish marshes and streams to spawn.
All this biodiversity, also makes wetlands a great place to explore the great outdoors.
Ducks Unlimited and Wetlands America Trust work with foundations, corporations and other institutions to implement projects and programs that advance shared biodiversity goals. For example:
- DU spearheaded the formation of the Giant Garter Snake Working Group in Sacramento Valley to develop strategies to protect this endangered snake during ongoing water infrastructure improvement work with The Biggs-West Gridley Water District.
- In the wetlands on the shores of Green Bay, WI, DU’s work supported by Fund for Lake Michigan helps ensure pike can utilize these habitats for spawning. By incorporating water infrastructure that facilitates pike movement and by designing “Pike Bananas,” crescent-shaped shallow water features, DU’s conservation work provides ideal pike spawning habitat.
- On March Point in Anacortes, Washington, Shell Oil provided funding and volunteers to enhance a three-acre pocket estuary near its Puget Sound Refinery. Shell employees helped plant a buffer of nearly 1,500 trees and shrubs near the water’s edge. The vegetation helps keep the shallow-water area cooler, promoting use by juvenile salmon.
Please contact us to find out how we can work together to conserve Earth’s biodiversity.