EPA Region 3
Topic: American Wetlands Month - May 2011
Size: : 4705k
Date: May 25, 2011
Bonnie Lomax: Hello, I’m Bonnie Lomax of EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region and welcome to Environment Matters, our series of environmental podcasts.
May is American Wetlands Month. American Wetlands Month was created by EPA and its partners to celebrate the vital importance of wetlands to our Nation's ecological, economic, and social health as well as to highlight the value of wetlands as a natural resource. Today we are speaking with David Rider, an EPA environmental scientist and wetlands specialist.
Good afternoon, David, and welcome. Since we are celebrating American Wetlands Month, the first question should be “What is a wetland?”
David Rider: Thank you, Bonnie. When people think of wetlands, they think of some place that’s far away from where they live. But in fact, you could have wetlands in your backyard. Wetlands are those squishy, wet areas that may leave mud on your shoes, and are also may be known as swamps or wet meadows. And they are quite valuable to people and the environment and provide ecosystem services for everyone.
Bonnie Lomax: Why are wetlands so important?
David Rider: Wetlands have many important functions. Wetlands work like a giant sponge to absorb and slow floodwaters. This ability to control floods can alleviate property damage and loss and can even save lives. Wetlands also soak up pollutants before they reach rivers, lakes, and other waterbodies. In addition, wetlands provide habitat for thousands of species of aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals and are great spots for fishing, canoeing, hiking, bird-watching. And they make wonderful “outdoor classrooms” for people of all ages.
Bonnie Lomax: What types of life will people find in these “outdoor classrooms”?
David Rider: Wetlands are really best known for being home to water lilies, turtles, frogs, snakes as well as alligators and crocodiles in some areas. Wetlands also provide important habitat for waterfowl, fish, and mammals. Migrating birds often use wetlands to rest and feed during their migration journeys and nesting sites when they are at home. As a result, wetland loss has a serious impact on these species.
Bonnie Lomax: What are some of the causes of wetland loss?
David Rider: Urban and rural development is now one of the leading causes of wetland loss, accounting for nearly 60% of freshwater wetland loss nationally. Additionally, habitat fragmentation, hydrologic alterations, and increases in invasive species are all troubling effects on wetlands due to urbanization.
Bonnie Lomax: What is EPA doing to protect wetlands?
David Rider: EPA has a number of programs in place for wetland conservation, restoration, and monitoring. One of the most exciting, though, is the first ever National Wetland Condition Assessment which we’ll be conducing this summer across the whole country. In the mid-Atlantic region, EPA along with the states will be collecting data on wetlands indicators such as vegetation, soils, hydrology, and water quality. The project will result in a statistically valid, comprehensive assessment of the condition of our national wetlands and the wetlands can be compared across the country.
Bonnie Lomax: How will this information be used?
David Rider: The project has three goals: 1 ) to produce a report that describes the ecological condition of our nation’s wetlands; 2) to assist states and tribes in implementing wetland monitoring and assessment programs and; 3) to advance the science of wetlands monitoring and assessment.
Bonnie Lomax: That does sound exciting, but what can individuals do to help wetlands?
David Rider: There are a number of things that people can do. Most importantly is to learn as much as you can about wetlands. Start by pinpointing the location of wetland areas in your township or county. This information can then be shared with neighbors and friends. Visiting those wetlands can be a fun outing with your kids or grandkids. We also encourage people to read about wetlands, identifying native species found in wetlands and participating in volunteer wetland monitoring programs.
Bonnie Lomax: And of course a good place to find additional information is the American Wetlands Month page on our EPA website at www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/awm/.
David, I want to thank you for being our guest today and for sharing information on wetlands. And to our listeners, thanks for joining us on Environment Matters.