Wetlands sustain more life than any other ecosystem – as much as many tropical forests and more than good farmland. The high plant productivity of wetlands supports hundreds of different species and provides the critical breeding and rearing habitat for a wide diversity of wildlife. Scientists tell us that 90% of the plants and animals in a lake or river need wetlands or flood plain at some critical point in their life cycle.
Wetlands act as natural water purification systems removing sediment, nutrients, and pollutants from flowing water. They also reduce the effects of flooding and increase infiltration of water downwards into underground aquifers.
One major cause of wetland loss is conversion of land for agricultural use – this has accounted for 85% of the wetland loss since the early 1800s. Other activities that displace wetlands include residential development, building of roads, utility rights of way, and the creation of sites for large facilities. The regulation of water levels has also caused the shrinkage of wetlands, and a concomitant reduction in the diversity of plant communities and the number of plant species.