In order to understand the importance of conserving wetlands, we must first understand what they are, what different kinds of wetlands there are, and what wetlands do for us. A wetland is defined as an area of land that is saturated with water either permanently or temporarily. They can be either saltwater or fresh, but this article will focus on freshwater wetlands.
In Andover, we have many types of wetlands, including vernal pools, marshes, swamps, and bogs. A vernal pool is a wet area of varying size that is only usually wet in the spring or fall or during flood events. These areas can form in open areas or under trees and shrubs, and usually have hard clay or bedrock beneath them which prevents the water from draining. A marsh is a wetland that is dominated by herbaceous(non-woody) ground-cover, while a swamp is dominated by trees and/or shrubs. Marshes tend to have mineral soils with little peat deposition, with most of the water coming from precipitation and runoff, but with some groundwater flow. Swamps receive most of their water inputs from precipitation, but also receive floodwater from nearby rivers and streams. They have saturated soils most of the year, and standing water for much of the growing season. A bog is a wetland characterized by spongy peat, acidic water and sphagnum moss, and their only water input is from rain.
Wetlands provide many ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are the direct and indirect benefits that humans obtain for free from properly functioning ecosystems. Wetlands provide water filtration, recharge areas for underground aquifers, floodwater storage, maintenance of surface water flow during dry periods, water quality improvements, fish and wildlife habitats and nurseries, aesthetic enjoyment, and even some wild foods, such as blueberries and cranberries.
These ecosystem services are giving us our clean drinking water in Andover, helping us to fish and hunt, and to boat, kayak or swim in the clean clear waters of our lakes and ponds. Wetlands soak up water during wet periods, and then release it slowly during dry periods, which helps keep rivers and streams flowing, and aquifers recharging. Wetlands are also some of the most biologically productive habitats in the world, and therefore help combat climate change by taking carbon out of circulation. Wetlands that have become compromised by human activity can be very expensive to create and restore. Andover is very fortunate that we have so many wetlands in such great condition.
By protecting them, we will save our future generations and residents many millions of dollars by conserving them now. There is a large aquifer under the Plains road area that allows many residents to have great water from dug wells. The large system of wetlands connected to Highland Lake and the Blackwater River, once protected, will help insure the high water quality of these bodies of water for many generations in the future. In order for us to continue to have clean water for all of these reasons, as well as avoiding costly damages from flood events, we need to protect these wetlands, and the services and benefits they provide.