Greetings Wetland Supporters!
Well, it is American Wetlands Month and our Wetland Treasures have been announced. They are beautiful sites providing many benefits to biodiversity and contributing to human well-being. Some of the tour dates are still being determined so be sure to watch our web page and facebook page for those dates. You will not want to miss these tours.
As I look over the years, I have dealt with the study of wetlands and how to best protect them. I was reflecting on how I got interested in wetlands in the first place. While I cannot put my finger on exactly when or how old I was, I just remember that during my exploration of the woods as a boy, wherever I came upon a bottomland or stepped into the soggy soil, I became fascinated about not only why there was the soil was soggy soil, but why was it even there and what was its significance. In those days I did know anyone who could answer my questions, so I continued to wonder.
As I progressed through life’s journey, I learned about wetlands as an ecosystem through my general science classes. The emphasis was on food webs and how organisms interact with their environment; all important and interesting information, but what is special about wetland? As my life journey progressed, I did learn that wetlands are really important, but still, there was a real lack of emphasis in the textbooks on ecology about wetlands. I was starting to get this impression that wetlands were considered by the “experts” as the “redheaded stepchild” of aquatic ecosystems. Even when I was doing wetlands monitoring research for North Carolina, it seemed that my research colleagues and I were pretty much in a world of our own, stomping around in wetlands. Even the USEPA, who paid us to do this research, had wetlands as the last ecosystem to be surveyed when they were doing their national assessment of the nation’s waters ( i.e., steams, rivers, lakes, estuaries all came first).
Along the way, I realized that people had a basic fear of wetlands that has a lot to do with our language and history. Wetlands (e.g., marshes, bogs, swamps) were always seen as dark, dangerous places that held unpleasant mysteries. So, they were drained to reduce this fear, to improve transportation and to be used for agriculture. And our everyday language does not help. How many times have you said I am so “swamped” or I got “bogged” down, all negative connotations? And what is really meant by the expression “drain the swamp”? What about the “Swamp Thing” comic book and movie creature who lived in that horrible swamp?
I could go on and on, but I hope you get the idea. Our language and cultural history have created this negative image of wetlands and it is something that we still must overcome, even within professional realms. So, let’s be cognizant of this during American Wetlands Month and help us break these stereotypes and educate people about the importance of wetlands.
So go explore a Wetland Treasure!