Wetlands are a major factor in Wisconsin's ecology; however, we are treating our environment so badly that we are causing wetland loss at alarming rates. It has taken the state thousands of years to form approximately ten million acres of wetlands, but it has taken less than 200 years for humans to ruin these vital landforms.
What is a wetland? Wetlands are diverse in size, plants and animals but they all share three characteristics: water, special soil dependent on wet conditions, and plants adapted to wet soil. These features help to not only improve the quality of life, but they also provide great benefits to our community. For example, wetland habitats support 75 percent of wildlife at some point during their life-cycles. One of the most important functions of wetlands is the protection they give. They prevent floods by collecting water from precipitation and storm runoff. They also help prevent erosion on the shorelines; the plants slow the water flow and decrease the impact of the wind and wave action. Lastly, wetlands give us cleaner water when they remove pollutants and sediments as water flows into the lakes and streams.
Since the late 1800's, half of Wisconsin's wetlands have disappeared. Landscape changes are contributing to wetland loss. This process begins when people drain and fill the wetlands in order to build towns, roads and other city requirements. This is why there are fewer wetlands in southern Wisconsin compared to the northern part of the state due to population densities. Wisconsin still has five million acres of active wetlands; what raises concern about the wetland loss is the rate at which it is happening.
To bring more awareness and to further the importance of wetlands, there will be the annual two-day Wetland Science Conference from February 19th-21st, 2019, in Madison, Wisconsin. Scientists, regulators, government officials, and tribal staff will discuss the steps that need to be taken for the sake and protection of our wetlands. The conference is arranged by the Wisconsin Wetlands Association (WWA), a statewide nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect and restore the wetlands through science-based programs and education.
Without wetlands in our ecology, our basic human lifestyle cannot be sustained. Not enough people are aware of the impact of wetland loss to our community. If those aware of the consequences spread the word, we can find a voice and make the change.