Friday, February 15, 2013

What Can Wetlands Do For You?

As spring time approaches you begin to see a lot of changes in the air.  Flowers start blooming and animals start to come out of hibernation.  But what I notice as an environmentalist is the beginning of fertilizing season on farm lands.  These fertilizers are very rich in nutrients, containing both nitrates and phosphates.  These are very vital to life, yet they can be very hazardous.  If too many nitrates and phosphates enter our waterways through rainwater runoff, an imbalance of nutrients can occur.  If too many nitrates enter a water system this can cause an algae bloom, and when this algae dies, it consumes a lot of oxygen in the water, thus creating a dead zone.  These dead zones have been occurring in various places such as the Chesapeake Bay, Lake Erie, Lake St. Mary’s in Ohio, and in the Gulf of Mexico.  One way to try to prevent and lessen the extra amounts of nutrients entering our water ways is wetlands.  Wetlands provide almost a “buffer” area.  Wetlands help filter out excess sediment that pollutes our water ways and can help absorb the extra chemicals and nutrients that have been put into our waterways by fertilizing. 

The wetland that we are studying is the Municipal Stadium Wetland that runs parallel to Buck Creek.  Upstream there is an inlet that allows high flood water from Buck Creek into the wetland.  Flood water is able to flow through the wetland during these high flows; nutrients, as well as sediments can be filtered out before it moves out of the wetland downstream at the outlet.  Flood water is not the only input to the wetland; groundwater is also fed up in some areas.  In a way this wetland acts as a kidney to the river by detoxifying it before it recharges back into the river.  By taking water samples in both Buck Creek and the Municipal Stadium Wetland we hope to find out if the wetland is making a significant positive impact on the quality of Buck Creek.  The wetland may have opportunities to retain and filter out the nitrogen or phosphate overloads mentioned before to restore a healthier stream ecosystem in Buck Creek.  We hope that we can gain a better understanding of the relationship between the wetland and river over the next semester by studying water samples in both.

To learn more about wetlands and their functions visit:

By: Beth Wilson and Lexi Crisp

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