Local Govt | National News Video | Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Search

 


Wetlands: Kidneys of the landscape

By Bala Tikkisetty

Intensive farming practices can result in significant amounts of contaminants, notably nitrogen, phosphorus, faecal matter and sediment, getting into our waterways.

With World Wetlands Day occurring on February 2, it is a good time to reflect on the impact of contaminants like these on our waterways, and the role of wetlands in helping to protect them.

Natural wetlands have been called the ‘kidneys of the landscape’ because of their ability to store, assimilate and transform contaminants lost from the land before they reach waterways. Like a giant kidney, wetlands help to dilute and filter material that could otherwise harm our lakes, rivers and other waterways.

Sadly, large areas of wetlands have disappeared with the development of farmland and they now occupy only about two per cent of New Zealand’s total land area. It is estimated that about 90 per cent of New Zealand’s wetlands have been drained – one of the largest wetland losses anywhere in the world.

Wetlands once covered large areas of the Waikato, but they are now some of our rarest and most at-risk ecosystems.

Wetland is a generic term for the wet margins of lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, estuaries, lagoons, bogs and swamps. They contain a diverse range of plants and animals and are home to many rare and threatened species, so conserving and restoring wetland habitats is worthwhile for many reasons.

Rainfall patterns, soil water status, groundwater levels, soil properties, drainage system design and land management practices can all affect the contaminant loads generated in farm drainage.

Nitrogen and phosphorous enter waterways through leaching and surface run off. Wetland vegetation uses these nutrients for growth. Wetlands remove up to 90 per cent of nitrates from ground water through a process called de-nitrification. Microbes living in wetlands absorb and break down nitrogen improving water quality.

Wetlands also play an important role in sediment management and reducing erosion. The plants trap sediment suspended in water, improving water quality, and in riparian areas their roots hold riverbank soil together.

Wetlands also help to regulate the flow of water from land, soaking up excess floodwater and then slowly releasing it to maintain summer flows or recharge ground water.

Providing habitat for many different plants and animal life, including rare or threatened species, is another role for wetlands. These areas are also essential breeding areas for whitebait species and game fish, as well as providing a rich source of insects for fish, birds and amphibians.

Fishers, shooters, naturalists and other water-based recreationists also make extensive use of wetlands. Their importance to Maori as mahinga kai (food gathering areas) and as a source of plants for medicines and dyes, is well recognised.

On an international level, healthy peat wetlands are important in helping to combat global warming, as they soak up excess carbon.

Waikato Regional Council provides free advice to landowners on managing wetlands, including information on fencing, planting of suitable riparian margins and weed control.

Fencing keeps stock out, stops pugging of wetland margins and enrichment from animal wastes. Appropriate planting around the edges of the wetland reduces pollution from surrounding farmland, provides cover for wildlife, reduces bank erosion and reduces the temperature of water through shading.

Of late, constructed wetlands, as trialled by NIWA, have been recognised as an effective technology for treatment of tile drainage waters.

Wetlands are worth caring for – failing to maintain their health is a risk too great to ignore.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

 

PARLIAMENT TODAY:

Mt Eden Prison: Serco Inquiry Extended

A two month delay to the Government investigation into prison fight clubs shows the extent of problems within the Serco circus, says Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis. More>>

ALSO:

Health And Safety: Late Addition Of National Security Provisions A Concern

The New Zealand Law Society has expressed its significant concerns at the last-minute addition to the Health and Safety Reform Bill of provisions for a closed material procedure for court proceedings where national security is involved. More>>

ALSO:

Rugby And Beer: World Cup Alcohol Bill Passes

ACT MP David Seymour’s Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Extended licensing hours during Rugby World Cup) Bill completed its third reading by 99 to 21... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Flag Campaign

So far, the public has treated the government’s flag campaign with something between disinterest and disdain. Most New Zealanders have instinctively seen through the marketing hype involved. More>>

Change For 2017: Local Govt To Decide On Easter Sunday Trading

The Government is to enable local communities, through councils, to decide whether retailers can open on Easter Sunday, Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse announced. More>>

ALSO:

(And Targets Worse Than Australia's): Foresters Abandoning Emissions Trading Scheme

The Government’s gutting of the Emissions Trading Scheme has caused foresters to leave and emissions to rise, says Labour’s Climate Change spokesperson Megan Woods. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Regional
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news