Today I received an EPA email that made the analogy linking wetlands and human kidneys. Of course my mind just started racing, and I began writing this post. I remember when I was working in land development during the housing boom, we had too much work to handle, the developers couldn’t buy, clear, and build fast enough. It is Florida, so most of the land purchased and intended for build, contained wetlands, protected trees, and/or protected species. For an area to be considered a wetland, it needs to meet some requirements… they must be inundated by surface or ground water in normal hydrologic conditions, there must be specific “wetland vegetation”, and the soil must be classified as hydric (soils mostly saturated operating under anaerobic conditions). I remember hearing awful rumors about tactics some developers would use to ensure that every portion of their land was develope-able… purposely planting invasive vegetation that would take over the ecosystem by competing with native wetland plants for resources and winning, or plants/trees that require enough water to turn a once wet area, dry. Oh, Father, for they do not know what they do… or they just do not care; regardless, removing wetlands, and then developing lands resulting in more runoff of much lower quality, is a recipe for disaster. There is a reason why they are protected, and contrary to what some may think, there are no tree hugging picket lines chaining themselves to lily pads.
Whether you are a creationist or a big bang theorist, we can pretty much all agree that the human body is a system made by and from nature. It just makes sense that the intricate matrix resembles that of nature. I won’t make all of the connections here, I’ll just stick to the portions run parallel to wetlands. The EPA made a great analogy…wetlands are the kidneys of the environment, they filter out excess nutrients, and provide settling time for particulate bound pollutants (bad stuff attached to dirt) to remove these toxins from water stream. This prevents algae blooms from multiplying to the point that aquatic life is threatened, resulting in hypoxia and summer fish kills. But that’s not all folks, they do even more! Similar to how your bladder holds fluids, wetlands hold water, storing water along the path, to reduce peak flows, and slow down flow, preventing from erosion and sudden temperature changes (for aquatic life).
Wetlands are an important part of responsible planning and sustainable development. They can be constructed to alleviate impacts of development and urbanization on the hydrograph (how the stormwater runoff flows during and after a storm), and to filter pollutants prior to outfall to a natural water body connected to our drinking water sources. Wetlands also promote infiltration, recharging the groundwater table, making them an important part of the hydrologic cycle.
Next time you take a walk, I encourage you to make connections between the system within yourself and the system in which we live. The parallels can give us a better understanding of the importance of taking care of our environment.