For 27 years, May has been designated as Wetlands Month. Wetlands provide habitats for wildlife to build their homes and provide shelter for their young.
In May, the Iowa wetlands are brimming with new plant and animal life. Iowa’s wetlands are particularly important because a majority of our endangered species live in wetlands. Wetlands are among the most valued but least understood of Iowa’s natural resources. The cycling of nutrients and energy of the sun meet here to produce ecosystems. More than 1,200 species of plants live in wetlands, where they clean the water supply and reduce flood risks. Wetlands provide recreational opportunities such as kayaking, canoeing and bird watching.
Unfortunately, wetlands are often viewed as wastelands, drained and used for other purposes such as farmland. It is estimated that Iowa has lost over 90 percent of its original wetlands. Because of this, a new organization has been set up to help restore lost wetlands in the state, the Iowa Agricultural Mitigation. Iowa Agricultural Mitigation works with landowners to restore prior converted wetlands.
We will face many consequences if wetlands continue to disappear. Water may not be as clean for recreation and flooding will become more frequent. Wildlife populations will suffer, particularly when it comes to birds because wetlands frequently serve as stopovers during migration.
How can you celebrate wetlands this month? Check with your local parks to see if they have scheduled events. Find a wetland in your area and take a walk. Listen to the sounds and try to identify what you are hearing. Rent or borrow a canoe or kayak and paddle through a wetland. See if you can identify duckweed, the world’s tiniest flowering plant. We encourage you to get out this month and enjoy Iowa’s wetlands. You can learn more about wetlands and how to establish one at www.iowamitigation.com.
Chair, Iowa Agricultural Mitigation Inc.