Erosion Control Methods for Wetlands Habitat Restoration
As one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, wetlands are important landscape features that benefit people, marine life, and wildlife. Different types of wetlands include marshes, swamps, riverbanks, bogs, mangroves, rice fields and more. Wetlands help to protect and improve the water quality and supply, provide a habitat for fish and wildlife, reduce coastal storm damage, and maintain ecosystem productivity. According to a study done by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 221 million acres of wetlands existed in the lower 48 states in the late 1700’s. By 1990, more than half of those wetlands had been destroyed. In 2012, it was determined that 50% of the entire world’s wetlands had been destroyed in the past 100 years. This percentage has only grown since then, making wetlands habitat restoration imperative. Erosion control methods are vital to this restoration.
Why Are Wetlands So Important?
Wetlands have multiple functions which help them protect and improve the environment while enhancing the quality of life for the animals and the people living in it:
- They improve water quality by acting as natural water purifiers. Wetlands filter out sediments and can absorb many pollutants from surface water. This can also improve the quality of groundwater in the area.
- Coastal wetlands help to reduce damage from major storms by reducing flood activity, coastal erosion, and even property damage.
- Wetlands along rivers and streams help with flood control and streamflow maintenance. They absorb energy and store water during storms which helps to reduce the risk of flash floods. The stored water can then be released slowly to aid in a drought period.
- Wetlands act as a natural erosion control method since the vegetation binds the soil together on streambanks.
- Because wetlands can provide various types of food for wildlife, they provide a good habitat for many species of amphibians, birds, reptiles, and mammals.
- Marine life such as fish and crab rely on wetlands for food, spawning, nursery grounds, and cover from predators.
What is Wetlands Habitat Restoration?
Wetlands habitat restoration is defined by the National Research Council as the “return of an ecosystem to a close approximation of its condition prior to disturbance”. The restoration process rehabilitates degraded wetlands or in more severe cases it can actually establish a wetland that was once destroyed. There are a few types of wetlands restoration:
- Enhancement: An enhanced wetland is one that has been changed in order to improve one or more functions of that wetland which is usually done by altering site elevations or the proportion of open water. It is sometimes done to increase the population of a specific species within the wetland but at the same time could decrease the population for another species. The specific type of enhancement is determined by the objectives for that wetland.
- Creation: This is the creation of a wetland in an area that was not a wetland in the past 100 to 200 years and which is isolated from existing wetlands in the area. They are created by the excavation of uplands soils to elevations which will then support the growth of wetland species by establishing an appropriate hydrology.
- Mitigation: This type of restoration is done to essentially make up for the loss of another wetland. According to the Clean Water Act, wetlands can be destroyed but they must be compensated by the restoration of other wetlands so that there is no loss in the total number of wetlands.
Erosion Control Methods
There are a variety of erosion control methods that are used to aid in wetlands habitat restoration. The most effective approach is to use a combination of engineered structures to protect the natural ecosystems from storms and erosion while allowing the ecosystem a better chance to develop and grow stronger than it was before. Erosion control methods used for wetlands habitat restoration include but are not limited to:
- Geotextile Tubes: These can be used in breakwater applications to help reduce erosion and protect the shoreline.
- High-Performance Turf Reinforcement Mats: Constructed from high strength UV stabilized polypropylene fibers, these mats provide permanent armoring for wetlands and facilitate vegetation growth by allowing surface water to infiltrate the seeds that are locked into place by the special fibers in the mat.
- Temporary Erosion Control Blankets: Manufactured from natural fibers such as straw or wood excelsior, temporary erosion control blankets provide short-term rainfall protection of slopes and can also be used as a channel liner in low risk or low gradient scenarios where vegetation is established quickly.
Erosion Control Methods to Protect and Restore Wetlands
Every year, the severity and frequency of destructive storms increases. The earth’s natural land buffers wetlands, coastal dunes, barrier islands, and mangroves have been disappearing at a rapid rate. IWT Cargo-Guard knows how important wetland restoration is to our environment and offers a variety of erosion control products that can be used to protect and preserve it for generations to come. Contact us today to discuss your project and how we can work together to protect and strengthen our environment.