Wetlands Filtration

The United Nations celebrates World Environment Day today, June 5, to bring more awareness to issues of environmental protection and restoration. This year’s theme is combating air pollution. We rely on our wetlands for oxygen production, carbon sequestration, and physical protection from natural disasters. As humans aggravate and change our environments, we lose these life supporting benefits and the impacts of global climate change become a local occurrence. [1] CWPPRA works to restore Louisiana wetlands so they can continue to filter pollution and improve air and water quality.

Coastal Louisiana contains about 40 percent of the United States’ wetlands, but we are experiencing around 80 percent of the nation’s land loss. [2] Recent studies have found that wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world, including estuaries, swamps, and marshes, all of which are found throughout coastal Louisiana. [3] Productivity is important because the more plant and animal material an ecosystem accumulates, the more carbon is absorbed, or sequestered, from the atmosphere. Plants grow through photosynthesis, which is a process that uses sunlight to bind carbon dioxide from the air into sugars that the plants can use for food. Wetlands have an impressive ability to store carbon in diverse plant tissues, both living and dead.

Although all plants and animals need nutrients, agricultural runoff introduces huge amounts of excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus to our wetlands as well, which impact wetland ecosystems. Nutrient pollution can cause weakened plant roots that are less effective at retaining sediment. [5,6] Additionally, nutrient pollution leads to algal blooms that deplete oxygen in the water, a process known as hypoxia, which leads to dead zones that kill aquatic species and causes health concerns for humans. Wetlands do a great job at filtering water to improve water quality, but they have their limits. Restoring wetlands will have greater potential to reduce nutrient pollution in the Gulf that damages the seafood industry, poses threats to human health, and degrades Louisiana’s coastal zone. Healthy plant communities in wetlands will sequester excess nutrients as well as other pollutants, improving water quality and decreasing potential risks downstream. [7] Wetlands can even be used as wastewater treatment plants. [8]

Atmospheric and aquatic nutrients can be filtered and stored by wetland plants, with long-lasting benefits to the world’s oceans and climate. CWPPRA realizes how many benefits we receive from wetlands and we have been working since 1990 to protect and restore our critical coastal environments. Alongside our partners, we hope that our wetland projects help our marshes and swamps continue to provide social, cultural, economic, and environmental benefits.

 

  1. https://phys.org/news/2017-02-wetlands-vital-role-carbon-storage.html
  2. https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/la-wetlands/
  3. https://globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange1/current/lectures/kling/energyflow/energyflow.html
  4. https://www.aswm.org/wetland-science/wetlands-and-climate-change/carbon-sequestration
  5. https://climateactiontool.org/content/restore-affected-estuaries-reduce-nutrient-pollution
  6. https://nicholas.duke.edu/about/news/dead-roots-not-just-waves-account-marsh-losses-gulf
  7. http://www.wetlands-initiative.org/nutrient-removal
  8. http://efc.web.unc.edu/2016/09/23/constructed-wetlands-wastewater-treatment-walnut-cove-nc/
Advertisements