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February 2nd, 2020
By Megan Chase
Think of wetlands as a natural sponge — they catch and slow down the flow of water and slowly release it over time, which reduces flooding and erosion downstream. Wetlands also act as natural filters by trapping sediment and removing pollutants through their dense root systems and absorbing excess nutrients through plant uptake. In this way, wetlands are like the kidneys of watersheds, vital to our health and often overlooked. Wetlands are so effective at cleaning up pollution, in fact, that they are sometimes used to treat wastewater and they make a difference when it comes to treating our drinking water. Forested wetlands even reduce treatment costs for drinking water sources, making them a critical part of our natural water infrastructure.
Here in the Upstate, wetlands provide essential habitat for unique plants, fish, and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. In the foothills, where there is some of the highest salamander diversity in the world, wetlands and ephemeral pools provide spawning habitat away from predatory fish. In Travelers Rest, rare seeps provide one of only two habitats in the world where the endangered Bunched Arrowhead grows.
With all the benefits we enjoy from wetlands, the successful functioning of our communities is dependent on the health of our wetlands. We are all part of a watershed and it is all of our responsibility to protect it. Get to know your watershed like you know your own neighborhood.
Here are some wetlands you can visit around the Upstate:
Megan Chase is the Clean Water Advocate at Upstate Forever and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.