Celebrating World Wetlands Day 3 Ways

Tomorrow is World Wetlands Day, a celebration of the importance (and warning of the fragility) of some of Earth’s most beautiful ecosystems.

The tidal marshes of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland. Photo: A. Hinterthuer
The tidal marshes of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland. Photo: A. Hinterthuer

Wetlands, the transitional ecosystem from an aquatic environment to terra firma, provide an incredible array of services to their surrounding landscapes – they filter sediment and pollutants out of the water, they absorb overflow and prevent floods, they provide critical habitat for crabs, fish, waterfowl and a host of other wildlife.
Yet, since the settlement of the United States, we’ve lost more than 50% of our wetlands – draining land for agriculture, paving it for cities, or putting it underwater with dams. With that loss, we’ve seen declines in fisheries and water quality and a rise in flooding and erosion.
Today we’re offering three stories on wetlands to celebrate World Wetlands Day on Februrary 2nd. (Okay, two stories and one slideshow!). We hope you don’t mind getting your feet a little wet! 

  1. Slideshow: Wetlands I Have Known

Over the last couple of years, yours truly has been lucky enough to get out and splash around in some amazing aquatic environments – from delta restoration efforts on the Louisiana coast, to North Dakota’s “duck factory” a landscape of prairie and pond called the Prairie Pothole Region, to wild rice beds in Lake Superior. Below is a gallery of some of the highlights:

 
2. Exploring the Land/Water Interface on the UW-Madison Campus

Cattails. Photo: Emily Hilts
Cattails at the CLass of 1918 Marsh near University Bay. Photo: Emily Hilts

Back in 2013, then UW-Madison undergrad, Emily Hilts, began a summer-long exploration of Lake Mendota. In a weekly series called “Muckraking Mendota,” Hilts did her best Aldo Leopold and dug into the natural history of the world’s most studied lake. A memorable trip to University Bay, offered a glimpse of the amazing diversity in wetlands. 
3. Walking on Water: Blogging About a Bog
My sodden rain boots tentatively stepping out onto the bog. Photo: A. Liebenow
My sodden rain boots tentatively stepping out onto the bog. Photo: A. Liebenow

Another UW-Madison undergrad, Aisha Liebenow, spent a summer at Trout Lake Station and had her “Welcome to Wisconsin” moment out at Crystal Bog. There, Aisha took a hike out on the “bouncy platform of sphagnum,” and never looked at the natural world the same way again. 

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