Wetlands provide vital habitats for diverse wildlife and perform crucial environmental functions and values worldwide. Let’s explore their significance in providing ecosystem services and their unique relationship with water due to their permanent or seasonal flooding or saturation.
Wetlands are highly productive ecosystems, with types like coastal marshes and freshwater marshes among the most productive in the world. Their high rates of plant productivity support complex and diverse food webs within and outside the wetlands, according to recent studies.
It offers crucial shelter and nourishment for a wide variety of animal species. Apart from functioning as a food supply, the compact flora present in wetlands typically offer shelter for animals to construct dwellings and evade predators.
Wetlands also serve as crucial nesting grounds for migratory birds and waterfowl.
Wetlands are primary habitats for many species like Canada geese, wood ducks, great blue herons, muskrats, beavers, snapping turtles, and bullfrogs, which are entirely dependent on them. Other species like black bears, moose, deer, wood frogs, and marsh hawks, though not entirely dependent, still play a vital role in their lifecycle or during specific periods of the year.
Criteria for Significance
As per the Vermont Wetland Rules, while assessing the importance of wetlands for Wildlife and Migratory Bird Habitat, the Secretary of ANR or Vermont Water Resources Panel must consider, at a minimum, the extent to which the wetland meets the following criteria:
- It supports or provides habitat for animals of significant wildlife or ecological value, including state or federal endangered, threatened, or rare species.
- It is classified in whole or in part as significant habitat by recognized wildlife habitat classification systems.
- It provides important cover, nesting, feeding or resting habitat for migrating or breeding birds, waterfowl or other animals.
- It is located in close proximity to or is linked by a wildlife corridor or other significant habitat between protected areas.
Wetlands are crucial ecosystems that provide habitat for diverse wildlife and offer valuable functions and values, such as improving water quality and reducing coastal storm damage. It’s important to protect them from degradation and recognize their ecological significance to maintain their ability to provide ecosystem services. Wetlands also have significant economic value, as studies have evaluated their benefits.