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Wetlands Will Play A Key Role In Addressing Climate Change In Pennsylvania

Swamp, marsh, and bog. These are a few words that are used to describe wetlands; but what is a wetland and why do they matter?

Historically, wetlands have been hard to define because their characteristics can be highly variable based on their location and the time of year; however, all wetlands typically need to have the following three features:

-- Land that is either flooded or saturated by water for part of the growing season each year.

-- Prevalence of hydric soils, which are soils that form when saturated by water and are often dark grey in color and may have orange, brown, red, or black spots called mottles.

-- An abundance of water-loving plants that can tolerate or thrive under saturated soil conditions, known as hydrophytes. Wetlands serve many functions, both to the ecosystem and the human population. They provide a home to a wide range of wildlife, which offers recreational opportunities for people that hunt and fish.

Wetlands are also able to absorb large amounts of runoff and release it at a slower rate, leading to reduced flooding.  Additionally, wetlands can remove many different water pollutants from water flowing across them such as sediment, nutrients, and other toxins.

Some wetlands are even created to treat abandoned mine discharge, waste water, and other types of nonpoint source pollution.

Each year World Wetlands Day occurs on February 2nd to raise awareness on the importance of wetlands in our environment. This year’s theme: Wetlands and Climate Change, focuses on the role wetlands can play in relation to climate change.

According to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources 2018 Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Plan.

Pennsylvania has seen warmer temperatures, more precipitation, and more intense storms, and it is expected that this trend will continue in the future. These changes have caused more flooding which can harm infrastructure, increase erosion, and reduce water quality.

 The presence of wetlands will play a key role in addressing climate change in Pennsylvania because of their ability to slow water flow, capture runoff, and absorb water pollutants which will reduce the risks of intense precipitation and flooding that are associated with climate change.

To learn more about wetlands in Pennsylvania, the benefits they provide for wildlife and society, and wetland management practices, consult the Penn State Extension Publication, Wetlands and Wildlife.

To discover how the DCNR will address climate change in Pennsylvania, visit the online Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Plan.

(Photo: Westmoreland County wetland/lake by D.Rhea, Penn State.)


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(Reprinted from Penn State Extension’s latest Watershed Winds newsletterClick Here to sign up to receive a variety of helpful information from Penn State Extension.)

[Posted: Feb. 19, 2019]


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