Project: Wetland's Hope | Teen Ink

Project: Wetland's Hope

December 21, 2009
By 9CatsPerLife101 PLATINUM, Fairfax, Virginia
9CatsPerLife101 PLATINUM, Fairfax, Virginia
20 articles 0 photos 96 comments

The destruction of wetlands by exploitation, drainage, and pollution is potentially the worst act of environmental vandalism being committed today. Wetlands are among the most beautiful places on Earth, home to a breathtaking array of plant and animal life. Yet many people still view wetlands as worthless, and the complex communities within these treasures are threatened by extinction. Wetland's Hope wants to prevent continued wetland loss by learning about our local wetland: Huntley Meadow's Park, and how we can positively impact the health of it.
In Fairfax County, there’s not an abundance of forests. Most of our county is well developed, and the sparse sprinkling of trees offers little more than fleeting diversion from endless roads and buildings. That is, with the exception of Huntley Meadow’s Park. Affectionately called the “Crown Jewel” by its local residents, Huntley Meadow’s Park is one of the rarest habitats left in Fairfax County. It protects over 1,500 acres of forested and open wetland areas, and is home to a breathtaking array of wildlife. For Wetland’s Hope and nature lovers in the Washington Metropolitan area, that makes all the difference. Huntley Meadow’s Park is our wetland. It would affect all the residents of Fairfax County if the health of Huntley Meadow’s Park declined; there simply isn’t another equally wonderful natural habitat in our area. That is why Wetland’s Hope wants to keep our wetland as healthy as possible, because without Huntley Meadow’s Park, we lose our crown jewel.
At one point believed to be nothing more than mosquito breeding grounds, wetlands are actually essential to the survival of humans and the world. Rich in biodiversity, wetlands harbor a shockingly large number of species. Approximately 2/3 of commercially harvested fish and shellfish species depend on wetlands for some or all of their lives. Many fish species spawn in wetlands, and approximately 75% of North American bird species use wetlands at some point in their lives. About 45% of animals and 26% of plants that are listed by the Federal government as threatened or endangered are sheltered by wetlands.
Wetlands also act as natural water filters and storm buffers. During a rainstorm, water moves through a wetland down into an underground aquifer, or body of water which we often get drinking water from, undergoing a filtration process which cleans the water. Excess nutrients and sediment are removed from the water, preventing eutrophication (a process where excess nutrients lead to rapid plant growth, increased oxygen demand, and, ultimately, reduced biological diversity) and cloudy water, which is harmful to wildlife in surrounding rivers, streams, bays, and oceans
In addition, by slowing down the flow of water, wetlands decrease the magnitude of shoreline erosion. Through the gradual release of stored water, wetlands can diminish the severity of floods. Wetlands vegetation can stabilize shorelines by reducing the energy of waves and other erosive forces. Roots of wetland plants hold sediment in place, preventing the erosion of land. In this manner, wetlands serve as natural buffers against storms.
Because many people do not realize the importance of wetlands, these precious ecosystems have faced problems for many years. In fact, the draining of wetlands in the U.S. was encouraged by the Federal government for over 200 years. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service has estimated that at the time of the Revolutionary War, there were over 220 million acres of wetlands in the contiguous United States. Now, over 50% of these wetlands are gone, and only about 105 million acres remain.
In addition to drainage for disease control, wetlands have been dredged for the construction of marinas and harbors and filled in to make dry land. About 80% of wetlands loss has been due to filling and draining for agricultural use. Wetlands are also filled and drained every year to make way for the expansion of human society. As a result of this development, there are more impervious surfaces, or surfaces that do not absorb water. This means that when wetlands are subject to significant development, the rainfall that was originally absorbed by these wetlands must flow elsewhere, thereby putting further strain on remaining wetlands.
Our native state of Virginia has lost 42% of its wetlands. In our own Fairfax County, 51,400 acres of vacant land were developed from 1980 to 2004. There were only 24,093 acres of vacant land left in 2004.
Many negative consequences come from wetlands depletion. The destruction of these precious natural resources could result in the extinction of countless species. Getting rid of these natural storm buffers would also increase the severity of damage that storms inflict. We could have more disastrous storms like Hurricane Katrina, and greater coastal flooding. In addition, wetlands depletion results in fertilizer and sediment pollution flowing straight into rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. By eliminating the natural filtration system of the wetlands, we release dirty water into our underground aquifers.
You might believe there’s not much a small team of people can do to prevent wetlands depletion. But in fact, Wetland’s Hope has cleaned up over 50lb of trash in their neighborhood creek in just one afternoon. Imagine if everyone who reads this article walks to a nearby creek or stream and picks up trash. In one afternoon, we’d be making not only a difference to wetlands, but to the environment in general. And that’s the goal of Wetland’s Hope.

The author's comments:
I began this project in eighth grade, and this is the first time I've written about it for the public.

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This article has 3 comments.

kellyisgr8 said...
on Jan. 20 2010 at 6:18 pm
kellyisgr8, Fairfax, Virginia
0 articles 0 photos 125 comments

kellyisgr8 said...
on Jan. 19 2010 at 6:50 pm
kellyisgr8, Fairfax, Virginia
0 articles 0 photos 125 comments
SO apreciate the fact that you are doing something for the environment. and this article is great!

kellyisgr8 said...
on Jan. 19 2010 at 6:38 pm
kellyisgr8, Fairfax, Virginia
0 articles 0 photos 125 comments
great work on wetlands. keep it up!