WetlandsWetlands are areas of marsh or peat land with water that is static or flowing. They are ecosystems whose formation and characteristics are determined by water. The major types of wetlands in Asia are mangroves, freshwater swamp forests, peat swamp forests, lakes and river systems.
Until recently, people thought that wetlands were soggy, useless land that would only be valuable if they were drained and developed fro agriculture, housing or infrastructure projects. Besides the direct physical destruction, wetlands are also threatened by chemical contamination and other pollutants.
Wetlands prevent flooding by holding water like a large sponge. Water moves slowly and this prevents flooding. Wetlands store water during storms when water levels are high. Then, when water levels are low, wetlands release water.
Wetland plants have roots planted firmly in the muddy bottom, but with stalks that rise high above the water surface. This can slow down the flow of water. By doing this, they counter the water's erosive forces.
Wetlands clean the water by filtering out the sedimentation. Because of this, wetlands have been referred to as the 'kidneys' of the ecosystem.
Even harmful chemicals are converted into useable forms in this cleansing process. Many government are now converting lands into artificial wetlands to filter out pollution.
Wetlands are the habitats for a very large variety of plant and animal life. Wetlands provide the breeding, nesting and feeding grounds for may endangered species.
Even animals that live in other habitats use wetlands for migration and reproduction. The plant diversity of wetlands provide a breeding site for crabs, prawns and fish.
The many diverse products of wetlands generate numerous socio-economic benefits that are important for the livelihood of local communities.
Among the many products that are obtained from wetlands are water supply for domestic us, fisheries, forage resources, craft materials and medicinal plants.
Wetlands are also treasured for their aesthetic value. They are wonderful places to visit. Their intrinsic natural beauty make them the favorite haunt of tourists, where opportunities for activities like boating, fishing and bird-watching exist.
The many benefits of wetlands is reason enough for conserving them. Reclamation of wetlands for development robs many types of flora and fauna of their habitats and ultimately leads to their extinction. Conservation efforts must therefore be taken before our natural wealth is lost through the selfish pursuits of man.