Ducks Unlimited conservation programs specialist Nic McLellan and communications co-ordinator Krista Elliott took a stroll along the Amherst marsh earlier this week, in the days leading up to World Wetlands Day on Sunday, Feb. 2. WAGSTAFF PHOTO
AMHERST, N.S. – There were few signs of life on the surface of the Amherst marsh near the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia border during a visit this week, but the importance of this and other wetlands should not be lost on any of us, according to our local Ducks Unlimited representatives.
Feb. 2 will mark this year’s World Wetlands Day, an initiative to raise public awareness of the vital functions performed by wetlands, and to promote wetland conservation.
“It’s a good opportunity to just educate the general public,” said Nic McLellan, conservation programs specialist for Ducks Unlimited. “It’s a designated day, so it just makes sense for us to be involved.”
Ducks Unlimited manages a large number of projects in the region, many of them in the marshlands along the Cumberland-Westmorland county border. They work with hundreds of private landowners, a good percentage of them in the agricultural field.
While wetlands are known for providing home for numerous species of waterfowl, they have a number of other benefits that may not be as well recognized, according to McLellan, including flood retention.
“Wetlands have the ability to retain water during periods of drought, and to absorb water during periods of high water,” he said. “They are also great filters for runoff. On the agricultural landscape, the high nutrients like bacteria, nitrates, phosphates and things that run farms, wetlands have the ability to filter those.”
The benefits to humans provided by wetlands are something people need to realize more, according to Ducks Unlimited communications co-ordinator Krista Elliott.
“Even if you don’t live anywhere near a wetland, you are still benefiting from it, because it filters groundwater and recreational water,” she said. “Look at how many people enjoying recreational activities on rivers or lakes. Wetlands help keep those clean by filtering out all those nutrients before they get into those watersheds.”
She referred to the algae problems experienced in Lake Winnipeg due to elevated nutrient levels in the lake caused by wetland degradation.