Transcript: Wade into Wetlands video lesson
(Video on YouTube; opens in a new window)
Hi, my name is Kate, and I work for Friends of the Mississippi River. FMR is an environmental nonprofit based in downtown St. Paul with a focus on protecting the health and vitality of the Mississippi River as it flows through the metro area.
This portion of the river is particularly important, as it is also a national park called the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. Our national park is the river as it flows from Dayton, Minnesota in the northwest to Hastings in the southeast.
FMR has four programs to help protect the river. We’re at the capitol promoting laws and rules that will protect our Minnesota waters.
We work with local communities to organize around local development and river-related issues.
We work with landowners to help restore their property to native habitat.
And we organize volunteer and educational outings for all ages.
Today we are talking about wetlands and their importance and how we can take care of them. The first thing I want to do is make sure we’re all clear on what a wetland is.
It’s fairly simple. A wetland is an area of land covered by water all or part of the year.
There are four types of wetlands that exist in Minnesota, and they are all slightly different.
Bogs are covered by mosses and gain most of their water by rain or snow rather than a stream or groundwater.
Marshes lack woody plants such as trees and instead have grasses, reeds or rushes. They often are located at the edges of lakes or streams, so have visible water.
Fens are much like bogs, as most of their plant life is often mosses. However, fens have a water source such as stream or groundwater beyond the precipitation that bogs are fed by.
Swamps have trees or woody plants, while the other types of wetlands do not. Swamps also often have visible water as part of the landscape.
With this information, we can tell that the wetland in the picture on the right is … a swamp, because it has trees and visible water.
While the photo on the left is … a marsh because we can see plenty of water. However the plants are reeds and grasses, not trees.
Wetlands might not look inviting to many people, but they are so important to the health of our environment that they are protected by law.
Some of the reasons they are important are that they act like a sponge, absorbing water, so reducing floods.
People who enjoy fishing, bird watching, kayak or photography often find wetlands to be special places to visit.
With a high diversity of plants and animals, migrating birds use wetlands as locations to rest. Wetlands are full of food for birds, and they are often safe from many predators due to the water.
Wetlands are areas where some of the most amazing plants grow that aren’t found anywhere else: plants such as the Minnesota State flower, the Lady Slipper, or those shown here. The pitcher plants catch flies, and cranberries we like to eat around Thanksgiving time.
Wetlands are also places where many animals choose to raise their young - even in this wetland, which was restored one year before this video was made, and, as we will see, is for the moment, in the middle of a farm field that is being converted into a prairie. There are thousands of tadpoles. Wetlands are amazing!
Water often flows through a wetland from a stream into a lake or from a river into an ocean. Wetlands were once regularly destroyed since they were considered useless land. Once they were, we lost one amazing benefit of wetlands.
These graphs show the amount of nutrients in the water before entering a wetland, at the points through the wetland, and at the exit. The top graph shows carbon. Then next down shows the amount of salt. The third is nitrogen, and the bottom one is phosphorous. Can you see what the wetlands are doing?
Please share your ideas with us on the FMR Facebook page or email us using our contact information at www.fmr.org.
Many farmers are starting to restore wetlands to their land as a way to prevent nutrients moving into the local waterway. Extra nutrients in our rivers and lakes causes eutrophication, which is when too many nutrients in water cause algae to grow. Eventually, this algae suffocates plants and animals trying to live in the water. It’s also the process that causes the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
Wetlands are sometimes areas that people avoid. But they are amazing places and incredibly important to keeping our water and habitats healthy. We can help protect them by keeping water flowing into wetlands clean, by preventing the spread of invasive species from taking over and spreading to wetlands, or just by learning more about the wetlands located in your area.
Please join us in helping to care for our wetlands! You can find more information on FMR invasive species removal events and ways to keep our waters clean at our website www.fmr.org and find our events calendar. We look forward to seeing you, and have a good day.
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