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What are Wetlands?

By Barrie Jacobs

Wetlands include any site where the land is wet or inundated with water. In Washington, wetlands exist in the form of bogs, marshes, ponds and wet meadows. A common stereotype for wetlands is that they are worthless and provide no use for the common good. Not only do many amphibian species depend on this land for their survival, but recent discoveries have found that wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world.

Besides providing shelter for wildlife creatures, wetlands aid the population in keeping the water clean. They do this by acting as a filter in the cycling of water. As water moves through the saturated land, it removes the sediments and pollutants from the slow moving water. The newly purified water then moves out of the wetland and returns to the stream.

Wetlands also provide an area for water storage. When floodwaters overflow the banks of streams and rivers, wetlands absorb the overload of water. The water slowly runs back into the streams to avoid flooding. During a period of drought, wetlands release stored water into the streams to keep the flow constant.

Today, only 40 percent of Washington's wetlands are still in existence. The other 60 percent has been destroyed due to new development of the lands. As a result, there has been an increase in flooding, erosion, water pollution and property damage, and a reduction in wildlife populations.

If we continue with new land development, problems will continue to get worse. It is imperative to understand that there are ways to restore damaged wetlands, but there is no solution to develop new wetlands.

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