We spend a lot of time in this office figuring out how to work around and protect wetlands during construction projects, for good reason: wetlands provide a host of services that are valuable to both animals and humans.
The Vermont Wetlands Program recognizes 10 functions and values for wetlands. This blog looks at the first three: Wildlife Habitat, Fish Habitat, and Recreation and Economics.
Wildlife Habitat: Wetlands provide habitat (a place to live and food to eat) for many species of plants and animals. According to the Vermont Wetlands Program, wetlands have a very high rate of plant productivity, meaning they are very good at turning energy from the sun into food for animals to eat. These plants also provide good hiding spots for many animals, especially migratory birds. Why is all of this important? We as humans depend on a robust ecosystem to provide the resources we need to survive. Without it, our needs – from clean air and water to timber and food – would not be met.
Fish Habitat: In addition to plants, birds, and other animals living in the wetlands, fish live and breed there. The Northern Pike spawns in wetlands off Lake Champlain, for example; a healthy population of these fish is required for commercial and recreational fishing to continue. Not all wetlands provide fish habitat, but the ones that do are linked to our ability to continue to catch and eat fish.
Recreation and Economics: Wetlands are not only beautiful, they are full of species that people like to hunt, catch, and photograph. According to the Vermont Wetlands Program, the photography of wetland-dependent bird species entire almost 50 million people to spend $10 billion annually, nationwide. And waterfowl hunters spend over $600 million annually nationwide. That’s big business, especially in a tourism-dependent state like Vermont. Wetlands also provide timber, fish and shellfish, blueberries, cranberries, and wild rice (not all of these are harvested in Vermont, of course).
(Photos: US Fish and Wildlife Service)