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May 16, 2013

The Status of Our Wetlands

Axe Lake Swamp State Nature Preserve
The National Audubon Society notes that bird populations continue to decrease as wetlands are destroyed. In the past 15 years alone, the continental duck breeding population fell from 45 million to 31 million birds, a decline of 31%. The number of birds migrating over the Gulf of Mexico, which rely on coastal wetlands as staging areas (especially in Louisiana and Mississippi), has decreased by one-half since the mid 1960s. Approximately 100 million wetland acres remain in the 48 contiguous states, but they continue to be lost at a rate of about 60,000 acres annually. Draining wetlands for agricultural purposes is significant, but declining, while development pressure is emerging as the largest cause of wetland loss. Unfortunately, many remaining wetlands are in poor condition and many created wetlands fail to replace the diverse plant and animal communities of those destroyed.
When a wetland functions properly, it provides water quality protection, fish and wildlife habitat, natural floodwater storage, and reduction in the erosive potential of surface water. A degraded wetland is less able to effectively perform these functions. For this reason, wetland degradation is as big a problem as outright wetland loss, though often more difficult to identify and quantify.
"We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do."

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