Cycling of water through our world dynamically affects all aspects of life. Significantly, wetlands form an entire bridge within the hydrologic cycle. Because all portions of the natural sequence must flow uninterrupted for stability of this
critical resource, wetland areas of all types are vital. So in order for the
system to function properly, water needs to be allowed to run though the process, which is well established in nature. Otherwise, the inherent benefits of natural progression are forfeited, as can often be witnessed where the course is interrupted. By working with the enormous forces of the water cycle, many advantages are realized.
Wetlands act as a physical buffer to prevent flooding. Being that they are a consequence of water flowing through the earth as well as surface flows, wet areas cushion the impact of discharge to rivers and streams. That is, rainwater can not be
immediately diverted to drainage without overflowing the channels. Even ponds overflow when precipitation is directed towards them, without allowing water to
settle into the earth. Of course, such inundation causes much damage, even loss of life. But when runoff is buffered by flowage into lakes and various types of wetlands, the peak of any flood is delayed and subdued. Basically acting as small reservoirs individually, a large number of wet, lowland areas contains a great deal
of liquid. Therefore, more water can infiltrate into the ground over a widespread area, which is not only important for slowing stream discharge, but also for water well recharge. Additionally, soil erosion is slowed by these buffers, preventing loss of the important material and keeping its nutrients from overwhelming stream life.
Chemical buffering also occurs in wetlands. Because of the unique environment that develops in shallow water and saturated soils, toxins are eliminated before infiltrating into groundwater or other potable sources. The effect is very well
established and useful. Many public and private facilities take advantage of wetland environments to reduce pollutants. In fact wetlands are often engineered for the express purpose of mitigating pollution from industrial operations and stormwater runoff. Even toxic metals are immobilized by the natural mechanisms occurring in wetlands. Another well known process, that of sewage treatment, is facilitated by way of the inherent processes that occur in shallow water with organic materials. Also the petrochemicals used heavily in agriculture are
buffered in similar ways as the contamination from industry. In all, it is difficult to estimate their total benefits, though it is easy to conclude, correctly, that wetlands are an invaluable resource.
Humans are only one species benefitting from wetland ecology. For others, wetlands represent home and nourishment, survival, in a word. Of course wild birds of many
types rely on the presence of shallow ponding, wet land and the organisms that thrive in such communities. But it is the entire circle of life within wetland environments that provides sustenance and protection for bird species. In total, from single cells and plants through invertebrates to higher life, the order is fundamental. When any segment of the food chain is disrupted, the entire system
suffers. Worse, by rerouting the very source of the ecosystem, which is water, wetlands are eliminated. For example, since Illinois became a state, the loss there is monstrous. Less than ten percent of the original area of wetland remains. And every year, many thousands of additional acres are lost. As a result, animals that are sustained by naturally wet lands are endangered, their numbers dwindling. And because wetland biology is not isolated from the world, other populations deteriorate as well. Also humans rely upon such natural processes; we are not
insulated from nature but a part of it.
Securing critical infrastructure is a national priority. Naturally, a very
significant component of that is water supply, the quality of which depends highly on the buffering and filtering provided by wetlands. Conservatively, seventy percent of our drinking water is groundwater. Not only this country, but every
nation on Earth relies on this resource. Many nations are very poor simply because they lack adequate water. An example of how Saddam Hussein terrorized his own
country is his ordering of the destruction of Iraq's ancient wetlands. Certainly, untold human suffering ensued, which was his goal, but many species were killed.
But multinational organizations now endeavor to restore that environment. While it is difficult to mimic nature on that scale, work is in progress, though decades are needed for full restoration. Similarly, the US government formerly protected and
restored wetlands because of their value to national interests. For some reason, federal authority is now relinquished regarding this essential concern. Because little is more important than water supply and a functional environment, defending
wetlands is a national, and natural, security issue.