A wetland is a habitat where land is covered by water – salt, fresh, or a mixture of both. A wetland is a distinct ecosystem. Marshes, bogs, ponds and deltas are all examples of wetlands. No Water No Life is focusing our social media this week on the importance of wetlands, threats they face, and possible solutions to conserving our wetlands for generations to come. Here are 10 facts about wetlands you may not know!
Wetlands provide habitat to in numerous species of mammals, insects, and aquatic life.
Wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems on earth! The amount of living matter in a wetland can be 10 to 100 times that of dry land nearby.
More than 1/3 of threatened and endangered species in the U.S live only in wetlands, and nearly half use wetlands at some point in their lives.
Wetlands provide the perfect habitat for growing rice – a staple food for more than half the world.
When thousands of species of birds set off to migrate varied distances across the globe every year, wetlands serve as the perfect “pit stop” for them providing crucial food and protection before they reach their final stop.
Wetlands purify water in our streams, rivers, and oceans. Scientists have estimated wetlands can remove 70 to 90% of entering nitrogen!
The Atchafalaya Basin in Louisiana is the largest wetland area in the U.S, and serves as a storm barrier for much of southern Louisiana.
Wetlands help mitigate flooding because their soil acts like a sponge. It soaks up and holds water, thus slowing its velocity. It is estimated that wetlands provide $23.2 billion worth of flood protection per year!
Wetlands protect shorelines and stream banks from erosion and absorb wave energy. Water plants hold soil in its place with their roots.
Wetlands hold a special cultural and historic role for humans! We can use them for sustainable recreation, artwork, and even spiritual relief. Wetlands contribute greatly to our quality of life and health of our planet!
Native American tribes and others from all over the country have joined the Standing Rock Sioux to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline [DAPL]. The proposed pipeline would cross 4 states carrying natural gas extracted via horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing [aka fracking] from North Dakota Bakken Oil Fields to Illinois. The complaints focus on the traditional values of our rivers, which we shouldn’t belittle. Our rivers provide sustenance (fish and medicinal plants), clean water to drink, and a spiritual and cultural refuge.
The specific concerns about this 1,172-mile pipeline begin with DAPL’s construction methods that would violate Sioux treaty agreements and desecrate their sacred areas. Once constructed, any leakage from the 30”diameter pipe (just under 3 feet of soil mostly) would threaten contamination within a large 4-state swath of the Missouri River Basin. Ruptures or spills could contaminate agricultural areas, roads, rivers, lakes and streams. In arid areas damage to groundwater resources would be devastating.
USA: Louisiana, Melville, Atchafalaya Basin, natural gas pipeline crossing the Atchafalaya River
USA: Louisiana, the Atchafalaya Basin, with C. C. Lockwood, Atchafalaya River, old abandoned dock of oil processing company
USA: Louisiana, the Atchafalaya Basin, with C. C. Lockwood, Atchafalaya River bank signage for ethylene gas pipeline
USA: Louisiana, the Atchafalaya Basin, with C. C. Lockwood, on Jakes Bayou, off the Atchafalaya River, sign for gas pipeline
The Native Tribes protesting at Standing Rock are getting the most media attention on this issue – especially those on horseback. Yet they certainly aren’t the only ones who would be affected by a DALP environmental catastrophe. The global issue is that there will eventually be greenhouse gas emissions from this oil, increasing everyone’s vulnerability to global impacts of climate change – floods, droughts, increased severe weather events, and sea level rise.
The local issue is that the Dakota Access pipeline will would carry 570,000 barrels of oil per day across 50 counties of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. It will cross under two tributaries to the Mississippi River: The Des Moines River and the Missouri River.
Too frequently there are pipeline spills. TheRiverkeepers website addresses the risks of transporting crude oil with an annotated list of recent crude oil pipeline ruptures and spills.
RECENT NOTABLE CRUDE OIL PIPELINE ruptures and spills
April 2016– Freeman SD
A spill of 16,800 gallons of tar sand oil
May 2015 –Santa Barbara CA
143,000 galloons of crude oil released, and 21,000 spilled into Pacific Ocean
Jan 2015 – Yellowstone River MT
Drinking water contaminated by 31,000 gals of oil spilled into frozen river
Dec 2014 – Belton SC
Over 300,000 gallons of gasoline spilled
Oct. 2014 – Caddo Parisih LA
Pipeline killed wildlife as it spilled over 4,000 barrels of crude
Oct. 2013 – Smithville T
Pipeline spilled 17,000 gallons of crude oil
Sept. 2013 – Tioga, ND
Over 20,000 barrels crude oil leaked into a wheat field
Mar. 2013 – Mayflower ARK
Rupture of 100’s of 1000’s of gallons of heavy crude into neighborhoods
If an accident like any of the above were to occur along the DAPL, it could affect the Missouri River or any of its tributaries along the route. These streams provide a resource upon which 18 million people depend upon for clean drinking water. A spill could also impact crops, prairie habitat and residential communities.
The fracking that produces the crude oil to be carried by DAPL releases less greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than burning coal – however, the use of natural gas puts much more CO2 into our atmosphere than other new sustainable energy sources. NWNL urges the implementation of renewable, sustainable green energy like solar panels, wind powered turbines, and wave energy.
Solving the negative impacts of this oil pipeline at this late date is problematic. It is unfortunate that in this century business and governmental decisions are too often made without enough honest and transparent risk analysis. We should listen more to the Native Americans protesting this pipeline who come from a heritage of analyzing impacts seven generations in the future before committing to risky ventures.
A ruling on the Sioux’s lawsuit with the Army Core of Engineers is expected to come out today. NWNL hopes it will be one small step in resolving the ongoing controversy over big oil and environmental conservation.
Check out the events page for rain barrel workshops, nature walks, stream cleanups, composting/gardening sessions and more for people of all ages to enjoy! There’s also a great list of resources for the region which includes maps of parks and protected areas, a book list, and lesson plans for teachers.
USA: New Jersey, Raritan River Basin
US: New Jersey, headwaters of the South Branch of the Raritan River. Purple loosestrife growing on shore of Budd Lake
Did you know that there’s a Quarterly publication called Raritan too? “Raritan offers writers and readers the opportunity for sustained reflection and aesthetic pleasure, uncluttered by academic jargon. Founded in 1981 by the distinguished literary critic Richard Poirier, and supported by Rutgers University, Raritan aims to reach the common reader in everyone and to provide a particular experience of reading, one that nurtures an engaged and questioning approach to cultural texts of all sorts: literary, artistic, political, historical, sociological, even scientific.”
New Jersey: Upper Raritan Basin, Hunterdon County, Tewksbury Township, Oldwick, aerial view of countryside at sunrise from hot-air balloon,
USA: New Jersey, Upper Raritan River Basin, Upper Raritan Watershed Association (URWA) BioBlitz on May 21, 2011, sign for rain garden
USA: New Jersey, Upper Raritan River Basin, Mt. Olive Township, Budd Lake (town), Sandshore Road views of Budd Lake at sunset, (Budd Lake is headwaters of South Branch of the Raritan River), kayaker silhouette with dock in foreground
New Jersey: Upper Raritan Basin, Hunterdon County, Tewksbury Township, Califon, River Road, South Branch of Raritan River, man fly fishing in river for heritage trout among fallen fall foliage,
New Jersey: Upper Raritan Basin, Hunterdon County, Tewksbury Township, Mountainville, sunflower (‘Helianthus annus’) with tiger swallowtail butterfly (‘Pterourus glaucus’),
The Raritan River, a long unsung treasure of New Jersey, was high on the list of special places for No Water No Life Founder and Director, Alison Jones. She lived in this NWNL case-study watershed all through her childhood and much of her adulthood. Thanks to documentary efforts by Alison and other Raritan stewards, the Raritan has risen in the esteem of many.
I had the pleasure of working with her and the many organizations that dedicate themselves to restoring and protecting this river. My recently-published book, The Raritan River: Our Landscape, Our Legacy, contains her images and those of many others who clearly love this river and this region.
The book presents the story of key organizations and their leaders by region, so everyone can appreciate their hard work and dedication to the protection of the watershed. The beautiful banks of over 2000 miles of tributaries moved many area photographers and artists to capture its magical nature.
The book offers New Jersey people across the country to say, “Hey. This is the New Jersey we know and love. It’s more than a turnpike and heavy industry. It’s beautiful and it’s really special.”
Since I retired from Rutgers University in December as the Founding Director of the Edward J. Bloustein School’s Sustainable Raritan Initiative, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the stewardship torch pass brightly on to the many who care as much as I did. So, get out and enjoy your natural treasures and capture the wonder in photos or paintings. You’ll be glad you did!
The Pine Barrens around Helmetta are a small, unique ecosystem within the Raritan River Basin, along the edge of its Manalapan River tributary. They are part of the Spotswood Outlier of the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
Many who think they know the Raritan River Basin are amazed to learn of this outlier with its acid cedar bogs filled with spaghnum moss and muck, porous soil and pitch pine forest. But Joe Sapia has lived here his whole life. His knowledge and appreciation of this special “neck of the woods” is found in each one of his series of almost 50 photo essays. NWNL thanks Joe for giving us a tour of his “backyard” and sharing this lovely photo essay.
A WALK ON THE EDGE OF THE WOODS
The Pine Barrens around Helmetta,
November-December, 2015; No. 46 by Joseph Sapia
As I hiked through Jamesburg Park, Jimmy Talnagi stood outside his cabin, lighted punk in hand.
Strange, I thought, I just had an online discussion with fellow, local baby-boomers about punks, or cat-tails. As children, we would light the cigar-like flower, ostensibly to keep mosquitoes away, but more likely to be one of the kids. Jimmy was not part of the recent discussion, but here he was, as if waiting for me, with the smoking punk. And, this being November, was not part of the season for mosquitoes.
I had three punks left from the warmer weather, what am I going to do? Jimmy said. They just start shredding, like a big puff ball.
True, the fluffy vegetation of this punk was coming apart, sticking to my sweatshirt. So, either light them for the heck of it or let them disintegrate.
Jimmy and the punk were one of various unexpected discoveries on today’s walk – a walk on the edge of the woods. The walk was meant to combine two things: one, a hike into nature, and, two, a pragmatic commute to the other side of the woods to Krygier’s Nursery, whose owner, Jimmy Krygier, was giving me a ride to pick up my Jeep, which was getting some mechanical work done about 8 miles away near Englishtown. Because I was tired and busy with house projects, I did not really have the will or the time to get into the woods. So, I compromised, turning down Jimmy picking me up at home, but sort of walking the woods – that is, walking on the edge of the woods – to Jimmy’s house.
So, around 2 p.m. on this overcast day of 55 to 60 degrees that was calm to having a light breeze, I set off toward Cranberry Bog. The idea was to walk the Pipeline to the ConRail railroad tracks, then to the bog, past Shekiro’s Pond into Jamesburg Park and out the woods at Jimmy’s, roughly a walk of two miles.
Walking the edge of the woods is not as good as walking deeply into the woods, but I made my first discovery hardly off the beaten track. On the natural gas Pipeline, I came across plentiful and huge acorns. This year is a “mast year,” somewhat of a mystery when oaks really kick out acorns. An oak in my yard was covered with acorns; Here, they were huge.
Continuing on, I turned toward Helmetta, briefly walking the ConRail freight tracks, before turning toward the Bog. Almost immediately I came across a microcosm of the Pine Barrens: white, beach sand-like soil mixed with oak, pitch pine and Virginia pine. If someone doubts this area is part of the Pine Barrens, have that person look at this scene.
As I continued, I came across blazing red tree leaves, the changing colors of vegetation during the transition from hot to cold weather. What a beautiful scene, but nearby there was evidence a local neighborhood is dumping its vegetative waste in the area. At the Bog, too, I was greeted by another sad scene: invasive phragmites. Not only overtaking the bog as a whole, but overtaking a nice stand of valuable punks.
As I moved on, the phragmites invasion continued. I counted five plants growing in Shekiro’s Pond. Five now, but how many in a short time? On the bright side, literally across the unpaved road from the pond, I found nice tands of winterberry. Not only beautiful, but food for birds and decorative material for my Christmas decorations.
Five shoots of very invasive phragmites, with the tassel at top, begins an invasion at Shekiro’s Pond. I dipped back into civilization at the former worker houses of the George W. Helme Snuff Mill, then worked my way out again into the woods passing Jimmy’s cabin and a few other homes. Finally, I was back in the woods, but out all too soon, my walk done.
Sometimes, life gets in the way of doing fun things, such as playing in the woods. So, one has to take advantage of snippets here and there.
As for the lighted punk, Jimmy insisted I take it as I continued hiking. But it was dry and leaves heavily littered the woods.
I don’t want to set the woods on fire, I said.
This went back and forth, with me finally agreeing. I took the punk, bit into its stem, and held it like a cockeyed version of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his cigarette.
I tromped on, looking like a swamps-around-Helmetta aristocrat.
~ ~ ~ Joe Sapia, 59-years-old, grew up in and lives in the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, where his family has resided for more than 100 years. He can be reached at Snufftin@aol.com or at P.O. Box 275, Helmetta, 08828.
Have you ever posted about Climate Change on social media?
Do you care about animals and their habitat?
Have you used the word “sediment?”
Have you ever talked about soil in casual conversation?
If you answered YESto any of the above questions, think about becoming a Rutgers University Certified Environmental Steward. No previous environmental training is necessary. Anyone with an interest in the environment and a passion for creating positive change in their community can become an Environmental Steward thanks to this upcoming lecture series.
The program is designed to give participants a better understanding of local issues that are important and to improve their own watersheds. Special focus will be on the Lower Raritan River Basin and invasive species management.