A wetland is a land that is constantly or near-constantly covered in water. This includes marshes, swamps, and bogs. Vegetation adapted to living in deeply saturated soil, such as Venus flytraps and pitcher plants, are characteristic of wetland areas. In areas where water saturation is seasonal or slow-moving, the soil may support hardier plants such as trees and shrubs.
Wetlands are unique in that they support both terrestrial (land-dwelling) and aquatic (water-dwelling) species. These animals, including several types of waterfowl, rely on the consistent access to water and the surrounding vegetation for survival. These areas are popular for hunting, hiking, and canoeing or kayaking. Wetlands draw further cultural interest due to their association with hauntings and gothic literature, such as Wuthering Heights, which takes place in the wetlands of Yorkshire. Movies, such as the Creature from the Black Lagoon, add further intrigue.
Wetlands are important ecologically, culturally, and recreationally; however, humans pose a threat to many wetlands. Large cities such as Boston and Washington, D.C. sit on drained wetlands. Many wetlands are near the coast and are drained for commercial use. Disturbing any part of a wetland may throw the entire ecosystem out of balance. For example, many wetlands lie near rivers which routinely flood and create a hospitable environment for amphibians, plants, and mammals. If those flood zones are blocked, the entire wetland may be destroyed.
Avid waterfowl hunters and enthusiasts are likely aware of these facts, as wetland protection and waterfowl hunting often go hand in hand. Ducks Unlimited, an American waterfowl organization, dedicates itself to the preservation of wetlands to ensure the continuation of waterfowl species. Through the EPA, the Federal Government seeks to aid in the protection of wetlands. For waterfowl species to thrive, wetlands must survive.
To learn more about waterfowl and wetlands, visit the Anniston Museum of Natural History’s newest temporary exhibit, Ducks, Dogs, and Decoys!