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Loss Of Wetlands


Loss of wetlands
Wetlands are one of the most productive ecosystems, comparable to tropical evergreen forests in the biosphere and play a significant role in the ecological sustainability of a region. They are an essential part of human civilisation meeting many crucial needs for life on earth such as drinking water, protei n production, water purification, energy, fodder, biodiversity, flood storage, transport, recreation, research-education, sinks and climate stabilizers. The values of wetlands though overlapping, like the cultural, economic and ecological factors, are inseparable. The geomorphological, climatic, hydrological and biotic diversity across continents has contributed to wetland diversity. Across the globe, they are getting extinct due to manifold reasons, including anthropogenic and natural processes. Burgeoning population, intensified human activity, unplanned development, absence of management structure, lack of proper legislation, and lack of awareness about the vital role played by these ecosystems (functions, values, etc.) are the important causes that have contributed to their decline and extinction. With these, wetlands are permanently destroyed and lose any potential for rehabilitation. This has led to ecological disasters in some areas, in the form of large -scale devastations due to floods, etc.

Abstract :
Many wetlands have been lost in the coastal plain regions, primarily as a result of infilling or drainage to create land for agricultural use or urban development. While further loss is almost universally acknowledged as undesirable, wetland degradation continues with little overt public recognition of the causes or consequences. Obvious and direct causes include nutrient enrichment, salinization, pollution with pesticides and heavy metals, the invasion of exotic flora and flora, loss of fringing vegetation and altered hydrological regimes occurring as a result of urbanization and agricultural practices. While further loss is almost universally acknowledged as undesirable, wetland degradation continues with little overt public recognition of the causes or consequences. Obvious and direct causes include nutrient enrichment, salinization, pollution with pesticides and heavy metals, the invasion of exotic flora and fauna, loss of fringing vegetation and altered hydrological regimes occurring as a result of urbanization and agricultural practices. However, sufficient scientific information now exists for improved management, protection and restoration of wetlands.

Sources of informatin:
y Wikipedia y Britanica Encyclopedia y Book of facts:A Reader s Digest guide

Facts about loss of wetlands:


Wetlands are up there with tropical rainforests for their productivity. They are found all over the world the only continent that does not have wetlands is Antarctica. Canada is fortunate to be home to more than 1,270,000 square kilometres (127 million hectares) of wetlands. That s nearly 25 per cent of all the wetlands on Earth! Twenty-two states have lost 50% or more of their original wetlands, with California losing the largest percentage (91%) and Florida losing the most acreage (9.3 million acres). Wetlands are not only the goodplace for waterbirds living, but also the important environment on which wild animals and plant rely for existence. There are 65 species of mammals,50 species of reptiles,45 species of amphibious animals, 1040 species of fish, 825 species of higher plants, 639 species of angiosperm,10 species of gymnosperm, 12 species of pteridophyte and 164 species of bryophyte investigated in China's wetlands. In China wetlands are disappearing at a frightening speed. After more than 50 years of economic development, the area of the Sanjiang Plain Wetlands decreased by 4.32 million hectares, or nearly 80 percent. As a result, only 1 million hectares of wetlands can now be seen on the map of the Sanjiang Plain. Wetlands are estimated to occupy nearly 6.4% of the earth s surface, 30% of which is made up of bogs, 26% fens, 20% swamps, about 15% flood plains, etc. Approximately 100 million wetland acres remain in the 48 con tiguous states, but they continue to be lost at a rate of about 60,000 acres annually.

Causes of wetland destruction:

There are many causes, one of the major reasons being humans. We are building at a suprising rate, causing habitat depletion. You can also take into consideration, erosion, and flooding.
Human Development and Landscape Alteration

y Human alterations to the natural landscape have the potential to exert significant direct and indirect influence on wetland ontogeny and processes. Changes to natural hydrological, chemical, and physical regimes have been documented as affecting the production and succession of a wetland's ecology, and therefore its functions and values. y During urbanization or development, pervious areas-those that permit the infiltration of precipitation through the ground-including vegetated and forested land, are lost. These natural areas are converted to land uses that increase the amount of impervious surfaces, such as roads, parking lots, and buildings. Impervious surfaces transform watershed hydrology by changing the rate and volume of runoff and altering natural drainage features, including groundwater levels. y This, in turn, alters wetland hydrology and may adversely affect aquatic and riparian wetland habitat. Increases in population pressures from

urbanization results in corresponding increases in pollutant loadings generated from a wide array of human activities. Drainage:

Draining wetlands for agricultural purposes is significant, but declining, while development pressure is emerging as the largest cause of wetland loss.

Pollution inputs:

Although wetlands are capable of absorbing pollutants from the surface water, there is a limit to their capacity to do so. The primary pollutants causing wetland degradation are sediment, fertilizer, human sewage, animal waste, road salts, pesticides, heavy metals, and selenium. Pollutants can originate from many sources, including:
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Runoff from urban, agricultural, silvicultural, and mining areas Air pollution from cars, factories, and power plants Old landfills and dumps that leak toxic substances Marinas, where boats increase turbidity and release pollutants.

Erosion due to canals:


As a threat to interior wetlands, canals are among the many man -made engineering projects that affect nature on a large sca le. Canals were created in various wetlands to serve two main purposes: allow industrial traffic to the port city in the form of navigation canals, and transfer oil and gas to locations around the nation in the form of pipeline canals. Starting in the 1940s, a surge of engineered navigation canals turned natural delta tributaries between New Orleans , as well as created random barriers through wetlands, inhibiting exchange of water, sediment, and nutrients. The wetland area, which once relied on constant sedimentation from river flooding, began to dry and sink below the water level, causing them to disappear. Also, pipeline canals extend for more than 38,000 kilometers, cutting through ecosystems of Louisiana s coast. Aside from wave induced erosion, these deep canals introduce saltwater to the wetlands and contaminate marshes and freshwater ecosystems. This internal erosion has affected the wetland s ability to absorb tropical storms before they reach inland cities.

Industry representatives admit responsibility for 10 to 20 percent of wetland loss,but others have suggested that industry canals cause anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of erosion. Salt water intrusion:

Salt water intrusion is a major cause of wetland loss and is increased by canal systems. Currently, there are 10 major navigation canals and countless smaller ones winding intricately through the wetlands of southeast Louisiana. These canals are used for transportation for oil companies that drill in the wetlands, and for the agricultural areas in the region. However, they connect the inland, freshwater wetlands with the Gulf of Mexico. This increases the salinity of the freshwater areas causing vegetation deterioration and land loss. Al so, because of the flow of traffic through the canals and the instability of the surrounding soil, the wetlands are very easily eroded. Consequently, the brackish water penetrates even further into the wetlands. This increase in salinity is toxic to many of the plant species that grow there. Much of the time the community cannot handle the sudden increase in salinity, and the plants die. The fewer plants there are in the wetlands the more unstable the soil is because the plants' root systems hold much of the substrate together. The loose soil is then more easily eroded, which connects the vicious circle of erosion and plant loss.

Louisiana Wetland Loss

Necessity to preserve wetlands:

Wetlands are complex ecosystems that provide valuable services to humans and animals alike.

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Wetlands protect our water supplies by recharging ground and surface waters and filtering contaminants. Wetlands help control flooding by storing water during storm events and slowly releasing it into surface and ground waters. Wetlands protect us from storm damage by serving as natural buffers. Wetlands improve the quality of our rivers, streams and lakes by filtering and reducing pollutants before reaching these water bodies.

Wetlands provide a place for fish and shellfish to spawn and grow, preserving our key fisheries and supporting ecosystems. Wetlands are important wildlife habitat that provides food, shelter, breeding areas, and migration corridors for both wetlands and uplands wildlife. Wetlands are beautiful areas of open space that provide enjoyment and increase property values.

Impact of loss of wetlands:


Wetlands act as the biological "kidneys" of the landscape by filtering out any water that would otherwise directly run into a water system. The loss of wetlands can cause the change in water chemistry of major water systems that those wetlands would otherwise filter out. When large amounts of limiting nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus leech out of soils and into water systems, the growth of primary producers, such as algae and phytoplankton, increases. This is due to an increased carrying capacity from the widespread availability of these limiting nutrients. In spring and summer months, when there are optimal amounts of sunlight, there is an explosion of growth and masses of algae and phytoplankton float on the surface of the water where the nutrients lie. The oxygen produced by these plants remains on the surface of the water. Eventually, the algae and phytoplankton fall to the benthic layer, where a layer of dead organic matter accumulate .Due to the tremendous quantity of this organic material, the decomposer bacteria population explodes. As the bacteria decompose the dead algae and phytoplankton, they use massive amounts of oxygen, often depleting the water of it to a point where nothing can live without severe stress or fatal effects. Had we not drained our wetlands on the banks of the Mississippi River, these effects could be significantly reduced, if not avoided. Wetland loss has been associated with the direct loss of species diversity due to destruction and lowered recruitment of infringing vegetation communities and displacement of fauna . The loss of wetlands may end with a loss of flora and fauna, which not only support human interests, but also contribute to the health of other

ecosystems, such as streams and rivers .The loss of flora is especially devastating in an ecosystem because primary producers, such as wetland plants, are the basis of any ecosystem. Th e effects of the loss or lowered recruitment of these plants ripples throughout the trophic ladder: fauna that depend on wetland plants as a source of food or shelter perish or migrate, resulting in the loss of fauna that are predaceous, and so on. The negative effects of wetland loss are cumulative. Every time a wetland is lost, or allowed to degrade, the entire watershed loses value to humans, animals and plants. The loss or destruction of wetlands can result in:  Loss or degradation of wetland habitat and a loss of plant and animal biological diversity.  Deterioration of wetland water quality.  Reduction in water supply and water storage.  Increased occurrence of algae blooms caused by nutrient overload from land adjacent to a wetland.  Increased sedimentation, which negatively impacts natural filtration.  Loss of flood plain land and flood plain protection.  Reduced range of recreational opportunities.  Loss of aesthetic values.  Increased abundance of weeds.  Loss of species and shifts in species dominance.  Mosquito problems.  Changed hydraulic regimes, such as permanent water cover in a wetland with a natural cycle of wet and dry periods. Reduction in groundwater recharge, with a negative impact on potential crop production and secure water supplies for humans and livestock.  Increased soil erosion.

Wetland Management

Management is the manipulation of an ecosystem to ensure maintenance of all functions and characteristics of the specific wetland type. The loss or impairment of a wetland ecosystem is usually accompanied by irreversible loss in both the valuable environmental functions and amenities important to the society.Appropriate management and restoration mechanisms need to be implemented in order to regain and protect the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of wetland ecosystems. In this context, a detaile d study of wetland management and socio-economic implications is required from biological and hydrological perspectives. In Bangalore, as in most urban centers, environmental pressures on wetlands are created by human activities (changing land use in the watershed area, pollution from point and non-point sources, soil compaction, loss in interconnectivity, and solid waste dumping, and so forth), which affect their natural functions. Protecting and preserving their functions proves to be incredibly complex, as it involves building a partnership among various agencies, working in co-ordination, and addressing the common goal of minimizing human -induced changes that affect the hydrology, biogeochemical fluxes and the quality of these lakes. The problems of wetlands in Bangalore can be broadly summarized as:

Hydrologic alterations, which include changes in the hydrologic structure and functioning of a wetland by direct surface drainage, de watering by consumptive use of surface water inflows, unregulated draw down of unconfined aquifer from either groundwater withdrawal or by stream channelization for various human activities. Increased sedimentation, nutrient, organic matter, metals, pathogen, and other water pollutant loading from both storm water runoff (non-point source) and wastewater discharges (point source). Atmospheric deposition of pollutants into these lakes mainly by the vehicular and industrial pollution both from within the cities and from the suburban industrial complexes. Introduction or change in characteristic wetland flora and fauna (exotic) as a result of change in the adjacent land uses deliberately or naturally changing the water quality, and so forth.

The overexploitation of wetlands in Bangalore is evident, as it is used for disposing untreated sewage, runoff from urban and agricultural areas, changed land use within the watershed, and so forth. All these unplanned short-sighted anthropogenic activities have resulted in rendering the ecosystem integrity in peril. Deteriorating water quality due to pollution

has also led to the spawning of mosquitoes in the absence of predators, such as Gambusia affinis, and killifishes (Fundulus spp.), which prey on mosquito larvae (Buchsbaum,1994). It has been suggested that an Integrated Pest Management approach involving bio-regulation could possibly control mosquitoes rather than draining wetlands.

Wetland Management, Conservation, Restoration Strategies And Action Plan A wetland management program generally involves activities to protect, restore, manipulate, and provide for functions and values emphasizing both quality and acreage by advocating their sustainable usage (Walters, 1986). Management of wetland ecosystems require intense monitoring and increased interaction and co-operation among various agencies such as state departments concerned with the environment, soil, agriculture, forestry, urban planning and development, natural resource management; public interest groups; citizen's groups; research institutions; and policy makers. Such management goals should not only involve buffering wetlands from any direct human pressures that could affect their normal functions, but also in maintaining important natural processes operating on them that may be altered by human activities. Wetland m anagement has to be an integrated approach in terms of planning, execution, and monitoring, requiring effective knowledge on a range of subjects from ecology, hydrology, economics, watershed management, and local expertise, people, planners and decision makers. All these would help in understanding wetlands better and evolve a more comprehensive and long -term conservation and management strategies. Some of the suggested strategies in this regard are: 1. The management strategies should involve protection of we tlands by regulating inputs, using water quality standards (WQS) promulgated for wetlands and such inland surface waters to promote their normal functioning from the ecosystem perspective, while still deriving economic benefits by sustainable usage. 2. Urban wetlands provide multiple values for suburban and city dwellers (Castelle, Johnson, & Conolly, 1994). The capacity of a functional urban wetland in flood control, aquatic life support, and as pollution sink implies a greater degree of protection. These wetlands

provide a resource base for people dependent on them. When dealing with such common resources, some of the important factors to be considered for developing a management strategy are described below. I. Data relating to the current ecological conditio n of the lakes in Bangalore is inadequate. This necessitates an immediate need to create a database on the wetland types, morphological, hydrological, and biodiversity data surrounding land use, hydrogeology, surface water quality, and socio-economic dependence. Such a database would highlight the stress these systems are subjected to in the given context. II. Involve institutions, colleges, and regulating bodies in conducting regular water quality monitoring of surface water, groundwater, and biological samples. Such programs help in providing technical support and information, which aid in understanding these systems better and formulating a comprehensive restoration, conservation, and management program. III. Development of a water quality database, accessible t o all users, for analyzing and disseminating information. This can be achieved through: y Exchanging data across departments involved in the program to allow easy accessibility to regularly and continuously monitored data; y Updating technical guidance and water quality maps at regular intervals and indicating quality determinant parameters; y Analyzing and discussing case studies of water quality issues; y Providing spatial, temporal, and non-spatial water quality database systems. IV. Correct non-point source pollution problems and administer the Pollution Prevention Program through environmental awareness programs. V. Creating buffer zones for wetland protection, limiting anthropogenic activities around the demarcated corridor of the wetland, could revive their natural functioning. The criteria for determining adequate buffer zone size to protect wetlands and other aquatic resources depend on the following (Castelle, et al. 1994): I. Identifying the functional values by evaluating resources generated by wetlands in terms of their economic costs,

Identifying the magnitude and the source of disturbance, adjacent land use, and project the possible impact of such stress in the long term, III. Identifying catchment characteristics-vegetation density and structural complexity, soil condition and factors. A fully formed functional In-buffer must consider the magnitude of the identified problems, the resource to be protected, and the function it has to perform. Such a buffer zone could consist of diver se vegetation along the perimeter of the water body, preferably an indigenous species, serving as a trap for the sediments, nutrients, metals and other pollutants, and reducing human impacts by limiting easy access and acting as a barrier to invasion of weeds and other stress inducing activities (Stockdale, 1991). Wetlands require collaborated research involving natural, social, and inter-disciplinary study aimed at understanding the various components, such as monitoring of water quality, socio-economic dependency, biodiversity, and other activities, as an indispensable tool for formulating long term conservation strategies (Kiran & Ramachandra, 1999). This requires multidisciplinary-trained professionals who can spread the understanding of wetland importance at local schools, colleges, and research institutions by initiating educational programs aimed at raising the levels of public awareness and comprehension of aquatic ecosystem restoration, goals, and methods. Actively participating schools and colleges in the vicinity of the waterbodies may value the opportunity to provide hands-on environmental education which could entail setting up laboratory facilities at the site. Regular monitoring of waterbodies (with permanent laboratory facilities) would provide vital inputs for conservation and management. An interagency regulatory body comprising personnel from departments involved in urban planning (Bangalore Development Agency, and Bangalore City Corporation, for example) and resource management (Forest department, Fisheries, Horticulture, Agriculture, and so forth), and from regulatory bodies such as Pollution Control Board, local citizen groups, research organizations, and NGO's, would help in evolving effective wetland programs. These programs would cover significant components of the watershed, and need a coordinated effort from all agencies and organizations involved in activities that affect the health of wetland ecosystems directly or indirectly. Restoration means reestablishment of pre-disturbance aquatic functions and the related physical, chemical, and biological characteristics (Cairns, 1988; Lewis, 1989) with the objective of emulating a natural and a self regulating/perpetuating system that is integrated ecologically with the


landscape and the functions the wetlands perform. The goals for any restoration program should be realistic and tailored to individual regions, specific to the problems of degradation, and based on the level of dependence. The restoration program should mandate all aspects of the ecosystems, including habitat restoration, elimination of undesirable species, and restoration of native species, from the ecosystem perspective with a holistic approach designed at watershed level, rather than isolated manipulation of individual elements. This often requires reconstruction of the physical conditions-chemical adjustment of both the soil and water, biological manipulation, reintroduction of native flora and fauna. Restoration goals, objectives, performance indicators (indicates the revival or success of restoration project), monitoring, and assessment program should be viably planned so that project designers, planners, biologists, and evaluators have a clear understanding. Monitoring of restoration endeavors should include both structural (state) and functional (process) attributes. Monitoring of attributes at population, community, ecosystem, and landscape level is appropriate in this regard. Restoration strategy developed in collaboration with the government, researchers, stakeholders at all levels, and NGO's should:
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Set principles for establishing priorities and decision making. Prioritize goals, assessment, and monitoring strategies based on specific roles they perform, level of dependency and type of problems faced by them. Foster innovative financing and use of land and water programs for better and sustainable usage of wetland resources.

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Public perceptions of wetlands have come a long way in the past few decades, yet wetlands are still being lost throughout the country. Habitat loss can directly impact birds using these areas by potentially influencing bird abundance and habitat use, reproduction, and survival. Habitat restoration is one of the only potential answers in counteracting wetland loss, but it remains unclear if and how restoration influences population dynamics of wetland birds. In addition, we need a better understanding of the ultimate roles birds play in these ecosystems to effectively address ongoing wetland loss and the strategies focused on mitigating this issue.