World Wetlands Day is February 2nd! Learn all about wetlands with Piers Evans, CCNL’s Municipal Sustainability Coordinator.
You have probably come across a wetland during a walk or hike. Wetland areas, as the name suggests, are, well, wet! A wetland is an area that is either seasonally or permanently saturated, and they are often defined by their ecology.
As Piers Evans, CCNL’s Municipal Sustainability Coordinator, describes wtlands; “These are areas that can encompass everything from shallow water to sphagnum-dominated bogs and can exist adjacent to lakes, the ocean, forests, grasslands, bedrock, and other types of landscape features. One of the key qualities of wetlands that make them such important ecological features is their biodiversity. Depending on the type of wetland (there are five types, according to the Canadian Wetland Classification System), the increase in biodiversity as one travels from a forest into a wetland, for example, can be surprising.”
“Another important quality of wetlands is their ability to absorb and retain moisture,” he adds. “They’re called WET-lands for a reason, and it’s this sponge-like trait that can make wetlands really important for preventing or mitigating flooding in communities. Flooding control is one reason why communities will actually build artificial wetlands.”
So where do wetlands occur? A wetland is formed when the right soil conditions, climate, and geology allow this moisture-rich area to form. Most importantly, water needs to collect at a rate faster than it evaporates, and faster than plants can drink it up.
“While it’s quite common for some types of wetlands (particularly bogs) to form on slopes, usually wetlands form in shallow depressions, or on the fringe of a lake or pond. And finally, the bedrock and/or soil conditions need to be right so that when the water collects in that shallow depression, it doesn’t all just percolate into the soil or through cracks in the bedrock,” Piers notes. “Once a permanent or semi-permanent pool or water begins to form, though, it will soon become populated by the moisture-loving species that help to build a wetland.”
Wetlands are filled with plants and animals that thrive in this environment. You may glimpse a pitcher plant, or roundlead sundew, two carnivorous plants that feed on insects. Birdwatchers, especially, can enjoy sighting some rare and interesting species. Some of the only places you might find red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) in Newfoundland are in our wetlands.
If you’re interested in exploring wetlands in Newfoundland and Labrador, there are plenty of places to experience their beauty for yourself. “There are some great wetland walking trails around the island – I am a little afraid to list any as I know I’ll leave out some gems,” says Piers. “Long Pond in St. John’s has some very nice shallow water wetland areas, Corduroy Brook Walking Trail in Grand Falls-Windsor is spectacular, many parts of the Appalachian Trail on the island’s west coast take you through wetlands along the table-top mountains, and the Codroy Valley is an amazing place to explore wetlands and do some bird watching.”
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