Monday, November 3, 2008

Allaying Wetland Restoration Concerns Part II

A (heavily monitored!!) restored wetland in North Carolina.
Courtesy: North Carolina State University
So, I started looking last time at "why we do what we do" in the field of wetland restoration. Last time, I discussed the perceived problem that wetlands attract and hold mosquitos. While it's true that any system that is out of balance (like a bucket in your yard) can harbor mosquitos, a healthy wetland should kill as many mosquitos as it creates.
Onward and upward. Another frequent issue is that people want a "wetland," but they do not want a WETLAND. And yes, folks describe it in those terms. They usually mean one of three things:
1. They would like a fish pond
2. They would like a corn field that they can flood during duck season
3. They would like a shallow, mowed/grazed watering hole for livestock
All of those things have their place in our landscape, but none of them are wetlands. Why not? Let's back up just a moment.
A wetland is a type of habitat. A healthy restored habitat should contain food, water, and cover for its intended wildlife (always start with the end in mind, right??)
So, what are the typical intended wildlife for a restored wetland?
  • wading birds, shorebirds and waterfowl
  • amphibians and reptiles
  • aquatic insects and invertebrates

All of these species need water, cover from predators, and food. Now look back at the picture at the top of the post. See how overgrown it looks? That's one mark of a sustainable restored wetland. Another mark is that all those plants should be food producing, which is a little less evident from the photo. If you review my past posts, especially my duck hunting posts, you can see that my photos zero in on waterfowl food. If you are duck hunting and there's not sufficient food (and trust me, they know it), then all you have to offer birds is open water, of which there is no shortage!

The same is true for all wildlife. If there is food, but no cover, they will visit, but not stay. If there's cover, but no food or no water, they may stay the night, but will rarely spend time in the habitat.

So look at the "old weedy mess" in the picture above, and know that even though "you can't see the water!" (what a travesty!), and it looks like a "jumbled weedy mess," having food, water, and cover together in one place is the only sustainable way to make a wild place really work for wildlife.


Jon Roth said...

Hey River Mud - Nice post. I have you linked on my roll, Hunt Eat, Live! Good stuff. Appreciate a link to you. Best.

T. Brook Smith said...

Of all the difficult things I have done over the years, getting home owners to accept the aesthetic of "wild" aquatic system is one of the hardest I have ever tackled.

"What's all that green stuff in there? I thought you were supposed to get all the weeds out of the lake?"

Thank God for the family of minks that moved into one of my restorations. It was a perfect way to point out what the benefits of natural zones of vegetation (complete with emergent vegetation) can do for a retention pond.

...of course for the people who hated the minks, I had to come up with something else.

Kirk Mantay said...

LTH - I've read your blog and will happily link to it!

T Brook - I always have to bring it back to the basics - cover AND food AND water. If you want a spot to be something more than a part-time substitute for wildlife habitat, you've got to have all three.

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