Most of us take wetlands for granted and consider them as muddy, inhospitable places where as children we chased frogs and eels.
Adults may hunt waterfowl there but still not really appreciate their true value as special ecosystems.
In fact a mature wetland is one of the most biologically productive of all natural habitat types.
They act as host to more bird species than any other single habitat form.
Wetlands may be fresh, brackish or salty, areas of water and marshy bankside vegetation formed by natural and human processes including volcanic activity, landslides, changes in river flows and mechanical excavation.
No matter how they are formed though they are actually in the process of reverting back to dry land due to the process of sedimentation. Eventually vegetation in the form of grasses, scrub and trees will dominate.
This entirely natural process has been accelerated by humans. Once regarded as useless “swamps” their high fertility made them prime candidates for draining to add to existing pasture. They were also reclaimed for housing and commercial developments.
Nowadays the true value of wetlands is being recognised world wide as being a very important component of fresh water eco-systems.
Why Are Wetlands Important?
New Zealand now has less than 10 per cent of the wetlands that were present in pre-European times.Wetlands provideimportant habitat for birds and fish, and are home to rare and endangered animals and birds including Australasian bittern, brown teal and plants such as orchids, ferns and mosses. They also provide waterfowl habitat and hunting opportunities.
Loss of wetlands is now recognised as an international issue. New Zealand is one of more than 90 countries to have signed the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.
Wetlands are Vital For Bird Life
Fish and Game New Zealand is actively involved in purchasing, protecting and enhancing wetlands because they provide important habitat for game birds and protected birds. Wetlands offer secure nesting, brood rearing and feeding areas.
Wetland conservation work is undertaken with money from gamebird hunting licence sales. Two dollars from every licence goes to the Game Bird Habitat Trust Board, which makes grants to game bird habitat conservation projects around the country.
Wetlands Are Essential For Effective Land Management
Wetlands are increasingly being seen as useful additions to New Zealand farms.
Fencing and planting wetland areas reduces erosion, run-off and stock loss.
Wetlands reduce peak water levels during flooding.
Plantations can provide timber and firewood.
Wetlands provide recreation activities.
Wetlands improve the aesthetic appeal of the land.