We’ve been talking about wetlands for the last couple of weeks, and continue this week with the next three functions and values defined by the Vermont Wetlands Program
Open Space and Aesthetics: In Vermont, we very much appreciate the value beautiful, open spaces bring to the state. They are a major tourist draw, and tourism is a major element of the Vermont economy. Total tourist spending in the state totals $2.2 billion and generates 23% of employment in the state. In parts of the state with more development, the open space provided by wetlands is more valuable.
Storm and Flood Water Storage: In the wake of Hurricane Irene, we may consider the flood-mitigating effects of wetlands to be their most important asset. During snow melt, rain storms, or hurricanes, wetlands can temporarily store excess water, keeping it from flooding developed land or lessening the severity of a flood. After the storm, the wetlands slowly release the stored water, lessening the likelihood of downstream flooding.
Endangered and Rare Species: According to the Vermont Wetlands Program, up to 43% of the nation’s endangered and threatened species rely on wetlands in some way for survival. These species are dwindling, largely because of human development. Without fully understanding how these species interact with each other and what they contribute to the ecology of a place, we cannot understand what might be lost with their extinction.
Top: Map Turtle, Wikimedia Commons User Dger, CC license
Bottom: Wetland during/after a rain event, Vermont Wetlands Program