//
you're reading...

Biodiversity

Protecting Our Fish and Birds by Protecting Their Wetland Homes

Adults salmon spawn in shallow water. (Credit: wikicommons)

Adult salmon spawn in shallow water. (Credit: wikicommons)

Commercial fishing and aquaculture is one of the most important industries on Earth. The blue crab harvest from the Chesapeake Bay in 2007 was valued at about $51 million. Currently, California’s salmon industry is valued at $1.4 billion. Markets such as these not only feed billions of people across the planet, but also provide and create millions of jobs.

Unfortunately, many of these markets are facing crisis as critical fish populations have collapsed. In the United States, mismanagement of wetlands has led to fish spawning grounds disappearing or becoming unsuitable to support their populations.

Wetlands are the link between land and water, and are some of the most productive ecosystems on Earth. They need our protection, for the commercial fisheries we depend upon, for the recreational opportunities they provide us, and for the benefit of the species that use them.

The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) is one way to protect the species vital to our fisheries and popular on our dinner plates. This year, Congress is debating on whether to continue the legal status of this program, and we should act now to urge its continued support.

What is NAWCA?

NAWCA is a conservation program created in 1989 to support activities under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, an international agreement that recognized the importance of long term protection of wetlands for waterfowl and other migratory species. Since then, our understanding of the importance of wetlands has evolved so much since its creation, and we’re now finding that these ecosystems are vital to not only the animals that need them, but also to the health of our coastlines and economy.

It is an extremely successful, incentive-based, voluntary program. A nine-member council meets periodically to decide which projects, that have applied for funding, to award grants to. Every dollar awarded on the federal level must be matched by non-federal sources. Because this program is so effective, the NAWCA funds are usually doubled or tripled on the local level.

(Source: Ducks Unlimited, Inc.’s Governmental Affairs Office)

(Source: Ducks Unlimited, Inc.’s Governmental Affairs Office)

Since its inception in 1989, NAWCA grants totaling more than $1.48 billion have been matched by $4.34 billion in contributions from partners. Over 5,600 corporate, small business, non-profit, state and local partners have tripled NAWCA dollars with matching funds to average a match of 3:1. This funding has resulted in the conservation of more than 33.4 million acres of wetlands across North America.

Why Are Wetlands Important?

The abundance (and diversity) of wildlife supported by wetlands translates into multi-billion dollar activities for Americans. Through grants and matching contributions, NAWCA protects and restores vital habitat for salmon and other critical fish, and expands recreational opportunities for people who enjoy hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, and photography. On average, Americans annually spend $646 billion on outdoor recreation, and the recreation industry directly supports over 6.1 million jobs.

Pelicans, godwits, geese, gulls and sanderlings share this wetland in San Diego. Credit: Circe Denyer.

Pelicans, godwits, geese, gulls and sanderlings share this wetland in San Diego. (Credit: Circe Denyer)

Of course, wetlands, in particular coastal wetlands, are important for other reasons besides the economic boost. They provide habitat for many federally threatened and endangered species – two of North America’s migratory bird flyways pass over the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, where coastal wetlands provide temporary habitat. Wetlands increase water quantity and quality – plants and soils remove high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, and in some cases, remove toxic chemicals before entering the water supply. They also provide flood protection, erosion control, and carbon sequestration.

Wetlands are an essential component of commercial fisheries, as many marine fishes enter coastal wetlands to spawn. More than 75% of the fish and shellfish that are commercially harvested worldwide are linked with wetlands.

For instance, the Columbia River Estuary in coastal Oregon supports some of the largest and most diverse fish runs in the Columbia River drainage. And currently, only a very small portion of the watershed is managed for conservation. Additionally, in Young’s Bay, 4 species of federally-listed fish are reported in its tributaries. Extensive diking of floodplain along the tributaries of Young’s Bay has severely limited rearing and migration habitat for salmon within the area.

What is Harming Wetlands?

The wetlands did not start disappearing of their own accord. Direct impacts include conversion of wetlands to other uses, primarily urban and agricultural. Indirect impacts originate from surrounding land uses, based on the fact that what occurs on surrounding uplands usually ends up in wetlands. Sediments, nutrients, petroleum products, and agricultural chemicals from uplands all move downslope and downstream, and some even move into groundwater.

Runoff of nutrients from farm fields can harm coastal wetlands. (Credit: Lynn Betts/USDA)

Runoff of nutrients from farm fields can harm coastal wetlands. (Credit: Lynn Betts/USDA)

In Oregon alone, 40% of the state’s original wetlands are already drained, diked or filled. Indirect threats like invasive species and urban storm water are an additional impact to the health of wetlands here. More than 500 acres of wetlands are lost annually in the Willamette Valley, and approximately 53% of western Oregon’s wetlands have been converted to other uses. With these losses, native fish populations have diminished, migratory shorebird numbers have dwindled, and flooding has amplified in both frequency and severity.

Reauthorizing and Supporting NAWCA

Now with new laws and projects, the loss of wetland acreage in North America has slowed. Reauthorization of NAWCA can help keep this progress going.

In the House of Representatives, H.R. 1099 – the North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act – will reauthorize funding for NAWCA through the year 2022. A reauthorization of this bill would give NAWCA the legal power to operate and exist, making it easier for Congress to awards essential grants.

The bipartisan bill, introduced this February, is sponsored by Representatives Wittman (R-VA) and Thompson (D-CA). “Washington should be doing more to identify those federal programs that have proven successful,” said Wittman. “Protecting, restoring, and managing wetland habitat is a productive endeavor, and it is critical that we invest efficiently to conserve our natural areas for the use and enjoyment of future generations.”

Nationally, nearly 35% of all rare and endangered animal species depend on wetland habitats for survival. There are people in Congress who know and understand that, and some who don’t. I encourage you to take a moment, pick up the phone, and call your congressperson or senator to urge them to support reauthorization for NAWCA and the protection of our wetlands.

Discussion

No comments yet.

Post a Comment

Instagram

  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    Happy Earth Day! Take some time today to do something for the planet and appreciate the ocean, which covers 71% of the Earth’s surface.  #EarthDay   #OceanAppreciation   #Oceanbites   #CoastalVibes   #CoastalRI 
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Not all outdoor science is fieldwork. Some of the best days in the lab can be setting up experiments, especially when you get to do it outdoors. It’s an exciting mix of problem solving, precision, preparation, and teamwork. Here is
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    Being on a research cruise is a unique experience with the open water, 12-hour working shifts, and close quarters, but there are some familiar practices too. Here Diana is filtering seawater to gather chlorophyll for analysis, the same process on
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #oceanbites  we are featuring Hannah Collins  @hannahh_irene  Hannah works with marine suspension feeding bivalves and microplastics, investigating whether ingesting microplastics causes changes to the gut microbial community or gut tissues. She hopes to keep working
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 10 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com