February 2 is World Wetlands Day—a day to raise awareness about the role wetlands play in the health of ecosystems around the world. At the Marine Biological Laboratory, scientists at our Ecosystems Center have been studying these vital ecosystems for more than 40 years.
This year’s World Wetlands Day theme, Wetlands and Water, highlights the value of freshwater wetlands as people around the globe face a freshwater crisis. Humans use more freshwater than nature can replenish and, at the same time, are systematically destroying freshwater wetland ecosystems.
“Wetlands are productive and vital ecosystems that enhance water quality, store carbon, maintain surface water flows, and can help control stream erosion,” said Anne Giblin, director of the MBL Ecosystems Center. “Freshwater wetlands are biologically diverse and support a large number of threatened and endangered species. Unfortunately, for centuries these areas were not valued and wetlands were filled and swamps were drained to ‘reclaim’ land.”
Marshes—both freshwater and saltwater—act as nurseries to a number of vital species and aid in the reduction of storm surge. They reduce nitrogen loads from land, helping to alleviate coastal eutrophication. With atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rising, wetland ecosystems, which store more carbon per area than almost any other ecosystem on earth, are more vital than ever.