What is a wetland?Wetlands are almost as diverse as the species they support. In the Okanagan-Similkameen, some of those wetlands include shallow ponds, marshes, swamps, fens, and wet meadows. You may have a wetland on your property, or in your community if you have:
- soft or soggy ground
- seeps or springs
- depressions that periodically fill with water
- depressions that have different vegetation than upland areas
- areas that you ditch to dry out
- areas where equipment gets stuck
- crop stress related to excess moisture.
Wetlands are defined by their relationship with water but some wetlands only contain water temporarily and recognizing them can be difficult and misleading. If you are unsure of whether or not you have a wetland on your property and would like to know, please don't hesitate to contact Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship by email.
Why is your wetland so important?
- Wetlands are one of the most productive ecosystems and only 15% of them are remaining in the South Okanagan and Similkameen.
- Wetlands provide habitat for over 600 species of wildlife, including almost half of Canada's species at risk.
- Wetlands act as natural filters, cleaning water before it returns to our rivers, lakes and streams.
- Wetlands also act as sponges, absorbing large amounts of water from rainfall, which reduce flood risks.
Photo: Earth Guage
What kinds of things live in wetlands?
Just like wetlands are a necessary link in the chain of life on earth, the individual plants and animals that live in wetlands are each very important to holding a wetland complex together.
There is an amazing variety of wildlife that call wetlands home. Some make it home all year and some visit seasonally. Although insects or other small creatures may seem insignificant, every life form has a role in the wetland, even those pesky mosquitoes. Things like bats, reptiles and amphibians all rely on mosquitoes as a source of food. When mosquitoes are all removed, this upsets the balance. Everyone and everything are linked in one way or another.
I'm just one person. What can I do?
The best way to protect a wetland on your property or in your community is to establish a buffer or strip of native plants between the wetland and any nearby land use such as crops, pasture or other development. A buffer will help to:
- Control erosion and add to the stability of croplands
- Trap snow, adding further moisture to your agricultural fields by releasing it slowly.
- Protect adjacent areas from flooding by acting as a spongs
- Trap sediments, pollutants and excess nutrients, reducing contamination of water sources.
- Create a barrier for invasive plants such as puncturevine and knapweed which could otherwise reduce crop quantity and quality
- Provide habitat for beneficial insects which can aid in pest control and pollination in agricultural settings
- Contact Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship to learn more about the wetlands on your property and in your community.