Jan 29, 2016

Appreciating Wetlands Worldwide and at Home

Estuary, fen, mire, morass, quagmire, slough—a person could get bogged down in all the words for wetlands! These fertile places where land and water meet are as rich in language as they are in life.

Wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world; according to the USEPA, they’re comparable even to rainforests and coral reefs. Wetlands produce a bounty of plants, microbes, invertebrates, and other small lifeforms, which in turn attract larger wildlife. They provide essential habitat for waterfowl and wading birds, many of which breed, nest, and raise their young in wetlands.

Coots are frequently seen in wetlands. Photograph by Michael “Mike” L. Baird.


Wetlands also help both commercial and noncommercial fish populations by providing nursery habitat for juvenile fish, allowing them to grow and thrive. Wetland plants may even play an important role in maintaining the atmosphere by sequestering carbon as they grow. When these plants die and decompose, the carbon is incorporated into the wetland soil, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

In Morro Bay, we know the value and beauty of wetlands very well. The estuary is bordered by them. The salt marsh that extends from the Morro Bay State Park Marina back toward the Morros is a beautiful example of a tidal wetland. The channels fill when the tide comes in, and empty when it goes out.  The plants and animals that live in the salt marsh are specially adapted to live with the changes in water and salinity levels that come with the changing tides.

This photograph, courtesy of Ruth Ann Angus, shows the salt marsh during a King Tide.
This photograph, courtesy of Ruth Ann Angus, shows the salt marsh during a King Tide.

The Sweet Springs Preserve in Los Osos also has some wonderful wetland areas, which attract a wide variety of birds and other wildlife.

“Sweet Springs Nature Preserve – Los Osos,” photograph by Linda Tanner.
Sweet Springs Nature Preserve – Los Osos,” photograph by Linda Tanner.

With all the wonders that wetlands provide, it’s no surprise that there is an international day of celebration in their honor. World Wetlands Day, celebrated on February 2, has a decades-long history. It began with the acceptance of the Convention on Wetlands in 1971 and continues today with the intention of reminding people how precious these natural places are.

If you appreciate the wetland areas in Morro Bay, Los Osos, and beyond, join us in celebrating them on February 2. Take a minute to renew your Clean Water Pledge, pick up trash from the water’s edge, photograph or paint a picture of your favorite wetland scene, and share your love of wetlands online with the hashtags #WorldWetlandsDay and #WetlandsForOur Future. (Don’t forget to tag the Estuary Program, too!)