Wetlands Perform Critical Role in Our Environment


By Ed Beaulieu, Vice President of Field Research and Development (Aquascape Inc)

Natural wetlands are considered to be Kidneys of the Earth! They perform a critical role in our environment of capturing and removing a variety of nutrients and pollutants from our water systems. Wetlands are basically nutrient sinks, the lush aquatic vegetation and its associated animal species make it the most biologically diverse habitat in the world! Scientists have attempted to unlock the secrets of healthy wetland systems but due to the complex nature we have struggled with truly understanding all of the details and functions of wetland habitats.

One of the unfortunate costs of development has been the loss of natural wetland systems which we are starting to feel the impacts of. Without wetlands we are seeing an increase in algal blooms in our waterways from excess nutrients, riverine habitat loss due to sedimentation of diverse rock and gravel substrates that are buried under sediments, these impacts will change the biology of our rivers which eventually impact our oceans fed by the rivers! I think you can see the pattern here! As water feature designers and builders we can incorporate similar functions of wetlands to beautify our water features and filter them.

One of the early constructed wetland pioneers, Dr. Wolverton did some great work with constructed wetlands. Working with NASA he designed and built constructed wetland filters to treat sewerage in rural communities that do not have access to traditional waste water systems. These filters are called Rock Reed Filters and as the name would suggest the filters are made of rock and reeds. Wolverton designed a system comprised of a long shallow trough that is lined with a rubber membrane and filled with various sizes of gravel which is then planted with reeds and other aquatic plants.

The dirty/nutrient rich water is discharged on the high end of this long rock and reed trough. The water flows through the system by gravity, and as the water trickles through the rocks it comes into contact with a diverse colony of bacteria, algae and minute aquatic insects that will feed on the nutrient rich water. Their byproducts are then absorbed by the aquatic plants. Once the water reaches the end of the filter it will exceed all EPA regulations for water that can be discharged directly into our lakes, rivers and streams.

Author: Bobby Kenyon
Bobby Kenyon is the Creative Solutions Guru for C.E. Pontz Sons who has over a decade plus experience in the Landscape & Water Garden industry . He enjoys long walks on the beach and grocery shopping but has a strong dislike for regular cake and off brand paper towels

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