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INLAND WETLANDS, Why Are They Important?

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Cynthia Rabinowitz, Director of Northwest Conservation District

Inland Wetlands (IW) provide important functions and values (F&V) (also known as ecosystem services) that are often taken for granted. It is painful to see wetlands abused by filling, tree removal, used as dumping grounds for yard waste or worse, drained and otherwise changed to the point where the vital ecosystem services no longer function. Fifty-two years after the enactment of the Connecticut Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Act, it is still worth reminding everyone of the value of these special, often magical, places in our landscape. The following is a brief overview of the invaluable services we derive from wetlands:

  • IW clean water through infiltration where roots, soil particles, and soil microorganisms remove pollutants and nutrients from the water. Most of Connecticut’s drinking water comes from surface water which is improved by filtration over a wide landscape that includes trees and wetlands.
  • IW retain some sediment that is carried in stormwater runoff, protecting the larger downstream watercourses and coastline of Connecticut.
  • Infiltration and spreading water over wider areas in wetlands reduces downstream flooding. The infiltration occurring in wetlands also helps to recharge groundwater supplies on which many people in Connecticut rely for their drinking water. 
  • IW provide habitat for plants and animals, some of which rely exclusively on special aquatic or hydric environments. Many organisms need these systems for sources of water, food, and lifecycle fulfilment.
  • Where wetlands lie along streams, rivers, or lakes, they protect the shorelines of these watercourses reducing erosion and destabilization.
  • Many wetlands are destinations for healthy recreational activities and bring people into nature. These activities are beneficial to people’s health and wellbeing.
  • IW are also valuable for education, science, archaeological research.