Celebrating Wetlands Today, Protecting Them for Tomorrow

Post Provided by JULIA CHERRY, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA

Today is World Wetlands Day, a day to raise awareness about wetlands and the many ecosystem services that they provide. Wetlands are broadly defined as areas saturated or inundated with water for periods long enough to generate anaerobic soils and support water-loving plants. They include bogs, swamps, floodplain forests, marshes and mangroves.

Some may wonder why these habitats deserve their own day of recognition, as wetlands can evoke images of the soggy, unpleasant wild places– the “ghast pools” of Dante’s Divine Comedy or the “waste places” of Beowulf. Unfortunately, these descriptions overshadow the true beauty and value of the world’s diverse wetland ecosystems. For those of us dedicated to researching and enjoying wetlands, these areas are worth appreciating every day of the year for numerous reasons.

In honor of World Wetlands Day, I will make the case for wetlands and highlight an example of a new research tool designed to understand how coastal wetlands may respond to sea-level rise.

Wetland habitats, including (A) a marine-dominated coastal marsh and maritime pine island complex (Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Mississippi, USA), (B) a freshwater floodplain marsh (Hale County, Alabama, USA), (C) a cypress-tupelo swamp (Perry Lakes, Alabama, USA), and (D) a Gulf of Mexico salt marsh (Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana, USA). ©Julia Cherry

Wetland habitats, including (A) a marine-dominated coastal marsh and maritime pine island complex (Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Mississippi, USA), (B) a freshwater floodplain marsh (Hale County, Alabama, USA), (C) a cypress-tupelo swamp (Perry Lakes, Alabama, USA), and (D) a Gulf of Mexico salt marsh (Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana, USA). ©Julia Cherry

Continue reading

Impact of Flooding on Wetlands Measurable via Low-Cost Approach

Below is a press release about the Methods paper ‘Testing sea-level rise impacts in tidal wetlands: a novel in situ approach‘ taken from the University of Alabama:

IMG_0175 (2)

Researchers installed adjustable enclosures near the shoreline to simulate low, medium & high flooding levels. © Dr Eric Sparks, Mississippi State University

Scientists designed a new, on-site method for studying potential impacts rising sea levels can have on vital wetlands, said a University of Alabama researcher who led a study publishing in Methods in Ecology and Evolution today describing the modifiable apparatuses.

Primarily using materials available at the local hardware store, the scientists, including UA’s Dr Julia Cherry, designed, constructed and tested low-cost enclosures, called weirs, to realistically simulate three flooding levels on coastal wetlands. Simulating impacts of sea level rise on-site and at larger scales had previously proven difficult.

“I hope this provides other researchers with a template to ask their questions and to improve upon the method we’ve documented to do bigger and better coastal wetland studies,” said Cherry, an associate professor in UA’s New College and its biological sciences department. Continue reading