Be the Change for Clean Water

Donate A Kidney To Nature Message Toolkit

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Filtering water is a major role of wetlands, as such they act as nature’s kidneys. They trap pollutants, break down organic material, and turn dissolved nitrogen into nitrogen gas. Wetlands also provide vital habitat for many birds, fish, amphibians, and invertebrates. Because we have lost so many of our original wetlands from activities such as draining, dredging and filling, it is critically important to protect and restore what remains. Discover their wonders firsthand by visiting one near you.

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Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, comparable to rain forests and coral reefs.  There are many kinds of wetlands and all are chock full of microbes, plants, insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, and mammals.

To understand how vital wetlands are, imagine a mystery box with the following items inside:  a sponge, a small pillow, a small doll crib, a bottle of antacid tablets, a box of cereal, and a strainer.  

A wetland is a sponge, absorbing excess water caused by stormwater runoff.  Some wetlands, particularly those on floodplains and in coastal areas, function as flood control by storing excess water during storm events.  The loss of wetlands along the Gulf coast contributed to the horrific devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The small pillow signifies that a wetland is a resting place.  Migratory birds depend on wetlands to survive their flights between their breeding grounds and their winter habitats.  It is estimated that some 75 percent of all waterfowl breed exclusively in wetlands!

The small doll crib explains that a wetland serves as a nursery, providing shelter, protection, and food for young wildlife.  Many species of fish that are important for commercial and personal use spend part, or all, of their life cycles in fertile wetlands adjacent to larger, more open bodies of water.  This includes bass, salmon, walleye, perch, and pickerel.  Coastal wetlands are essential habitats for fish, shellfish, blue crabs, and shrimp.  Frogs, toads, turtles, salamanders, snakes, dragonflies, water striders, clams, and crayfish flourish in wetland habitats.  Many mammals such as deer, beaver, otter, black bear, and others depend on wetlands too.

The bottle of antacid demonstrates that wetlands eliminate toxic substances by trapping and neutralizing pollutants.  This natural filtering system is similar to the work that kidneys do for our bodies, keeping our blood clean and chemically balanced. 

The box of cereal represents food provided by wetlands for people and for wildlife, Mother Nature’s biological supermarket.  In addition to fish and shellfish, wetlands grow rice and cranberries.  The list grows when we consider recreational hunting for ducks, deer, and other wildlife that are harvested for the dinner table.

Lastly, the strainer symbolizes that wetlands hold back sediment and debris so that clean water can flow into our rivers, streams, lakes, and oceans.

These are just a few excellent examples of the importance of wetlands to water quality, locally and around the world.  Unfortunately, a huge percentage of our nation’s wetlands have been lost or degraded due to human impacts such as drainage, dredging, deposition of fill material, diking, damming, and mining.  

Because we have lost so many of our original wetlands, it is critically important to protect and restore what remains.  The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, in partnership with farmers and private landowners, has enhanced and preserved 25,000 acres of Ohio’s wetlands since 2005.  In addition, the H2Ohio program is creating, restoring, and improving wetlands to capture excess nutrients, store carbon, and expand habitat for a diverse array of wildlife.

You can be the change for clean water by learning more about wetlands and their unique qualities.  Discover their wonders firsthand by visiting one near you.  (Include any local or state wetlands in your county/vicinity here.)


Other Resources 

To learn more about statewide wetland projects that help Ohio be the change for clean water, visit the H2Ohio website
To learn more about wetlands, the plants and animals that live there, and more, check out the Ohio Wetlands Association