World Wetlands Day

Today February 2, is World Wetlands Day. Take a moment to reflect on the value of wetlands and how we can harness the natural power of this ecosystem to turn the tide on climate change. 

Cleansed and enriched by the Red Maple-Sensitive Fern and Black Spruce Forested Wetlands in The McKeon Reserve, these waters are seen by Brianna (center, right) entering Branch River near Carpenter’s Crossing Bridge along the Rail Trail. The importance of these valuable wetlands is the subject of many completed and ongoing studies, and preservation efforts are increasing in urgency as these studies are showing the positive ecological impact upon the surrounding environment…and how those impacts relate to the betterment of the human condition.    

These incredibly diverse, biologically rich areas provide many benefits to their surrounding habitat. The constant presence of water creates a habitat that support uniquely adapted plants, water and land based animals, and allows the formation of the increasingly rare and valuable wetland soil. The water in wetlands typically moves slowly and through a large area, trapping pollution-laden sediment and allowing the formation of biological soil creatures that actually eat and process these contaminants!

Raccoon, fox, turkey, deer, moose, and many other critters hunt here for frogs, salamanders, bugs, nuts, fresh woody shoots, and other tasty snacks provided by the wetland’s unique habitat and abutting areas. Recent wood-harvesting operations now support an emergent growth forest ecosystem, providing rich habitat for many birds, amphibians, and other forest denizens. Portions of The Reserve have been mapped and described by Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife as Inland Waterfowl and Wading Bird Habitat.  

Take a look here at how Beaver ponds create wetlands which are among the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world. Beaver eat wood, and by thinning the trees along the shore, algae and aquatic plants grow in the sun drenched wetland. And vernal pools (also called “spring pools”) are ofter associated with forested wetlands and are found in The Reserve and many of the Trust’s other lands.

The microorganisms in these saturated soils process (eat!) various man-made pollutants, effectively removing them from the ecosystem. (The “Red Tide” blooms, sometimes caused by high fertilizer use, are one type of pollution-caused event that wetlands help to reduce). Wetlands also act as “flood reducers” by their ability to retain and hold water for long periods, slowing down the flow, reducing erosion. 

All these unique conditions support the bedrock food chain of the surrounding habitat…and do so year round! They have been called the most productive ecosystem on earth!!

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