Monthly Archives: January 2014
Why protect small freshwater wetlands?
Most of us don’t even notice small wetlands, we are almost not conscious that they are there. For some people wetland is wasteland and sometimes people will drain the water out of wetlands, or fill them in with soil or waste materials in order to get a little more dry-land.
But our small freshwater wetlands are full of life and brimming with incredible ecology. A typical small wetland will have dozens, or maybe hundreds, of species of plants and animals quietly existing in the water or around its fringes, and most of us won’t pay them even a second thought.
At www.wetlands.ie, we will try to bring you a little interesting information about the ecology of small wetlands, so that maybe, one-day you will stop and look a little closer at the magical web of life that can be found in any undisturbed wetland.
And there are thousands of them. You can find them in every county, all over the island of Ireland. See our page “Locations”
Small wetlands are like little reservoirs of life. The plants and animals in the wetlands reproduce from year to year and sometimes they migrate from one wetland to the next. If one wetland is damaged by drought, by pollution or by drainage, plants and animals from the nearest wetland will come along and start the cycle of life all over again, restoring the damaged wetland to full health. Sometimes the wetlands produce life that migrates into the rivers and lakes and helps to balance the ecology in those water-bodies, as they try to cope with the pressures of pollution, droughts, floods and overuse.
Because small wetlands are scattered throughout the countryside, they can act like pearls in a necklace, or like islands in an archipelago, with plants and animals hopping form one wetland to the next and in that way the ecological balance of the entire countryside is refreshed and replenished as the plants and animals move about.
And that is really important in maintaining a healthy environment across the island.
So, that’s why it’s important to protect even the smaller wetlands.
Wetlands ‘right-now’ – what’s happening?
Although International Wetlands Day happens on 2nd February each year, this is the time of year when wetlands, in the northern hemisphere, are almost dormant. If you go to visit a wetland on 2st February, you won’t see much happening.
Many of the plants and animals that normally live in the wetland are going through their winter dormancy now.
In February you will see the bare stems of the reeds and lots of dead vegetation. Under the surface however lots of things are already happening. Many of the animals that live in the mud on the floor of the wetlands are already preparing for spring. The larvae of the dragon flies are already actively feeding on other small animals in the detritus at the bottom of the pond. These larvae are fierce predators and this video link shows you how they behave on the bottom of the wetlands at this time of year if they can find prey dragonfly larvae feeding (see below).
When the risk of severe frost has passed, some of the plants will begin to emerge…..
….and when the weather warms up a bit and the average daily temperature stays above 6 degrees or so, the first obvious signs of life will appear.
In fact, it is at the wetlands that you can first see the stirrings of the new spring. The green shoots will appear on the reeds first of all. Then other smaller plants like the bog bean and the mayflower will begin to push up their foliage.
Then you know for sure that the winter is over!