Erosion Control Methods for Wetlands Habitat Restoration
As one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, wetlands 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. They also provide a habitat for fish and wildlife, reduce coastal storm damage, and maintain ecosystem productivity. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study, there were 221 million acres of wetlands 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 provide 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?
The National Research Council defines wetlands habitat restoration 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, 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. Altering site elevations or the proportion of open water is one method of enhancement. Increasing the population of a specific species within the wetland is another. However, it can often decrease the population for other species. The objectives for that wetland determine the specific type of enhancement.
- Creation: This is the creation of a wetland in an area that was not a wetland in the past 100 to 200 years and not directly adjacent to existing wetlands in the area. Creation involves 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 essentially makes up for the loss of another wetland. The Clean Water Act states that destroying one wetland requires restoration of another wetland to compensate so there is no loss in the total number of wetlands.
Erosion Control Methods
There are a variety of erosion control methods that can aid in wetlands habitat restoration. The most effective approach is a combination of engineered structures to protect the natural ecosystems from storms and erosion. This allows the ecosystem a better chance to develop and grow stronger than it was before. Erosion control methods for wetlands habitat restoration include:
- Geotextile Tubes: Their use in breakwater applications helps to 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. They facilitate vegetation growth by allowing surface water to infiltrate the seeds locked in 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. They are also ideal for use as a channel liner in low risk or low gradient scenarios where vegetation establishes 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 are disappearing at a rapid rate. IWT Cargo-Guard understands the importance of wetland restoration to our environment. We offer a variety of erosion control products 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.