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Adequate wetland buffers are critical to wetland health

Wetland scientists the world over have long stressed the need for significant wetland buffers to safeguard true wetland health. One Australian source had this to say: [attached text here]

Protecting wetlands in isolation from the surrounding landscape is an exercise in futility. Many fauna utilise wetland habitat incidentally - at particular stages of their life cycle. Many frogs disperse hundreds of metres from wetlands after completing their tadpole stage, only to return when it is time to reproduce the next generation. Other species rely on wetlands as refugia during prolonged dry periods. Adequate wetland buffers need to be planned and managed to ensure the healthy ecological functioning of these ecosystems. 

Buffers help to: 

  • condition water runoff (quantity and quality); 
  • reduce the impacts of invasive weeds; 
  • minimise fauna disturbance (for example from noise, light, disruptive movement); 
  • provide for wildlife movement between upland and lowland habitats; and
  • separate wetlands from competing uses and minimise nuisance problems (for example, biting insects). 

Closer to home, the law has failed to keep pace with the science of wetland protection (big surprise). Inadequate buffers are apparent even to laypeople by simple observation: Hey? Did anyone else notice there are fewer animals around since they built that gigantic building next to the marsh? Duh! 

On a more scientific level, Wetland Scientist Lynn Boyd wrote an eloquent thesis on the inadequacy of wetland buffer protection under the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act. Her research points to a whole host of wetland species that are upland-dependent--in other words, who need greater protection around wetlands. As developers continue their push to build on every available square inch of space, research like hers becomes even more important. It has been used to argue to deny permits before Conservation Commissions, and is a powerful tool in the citizen activist's arsenal. Her study is linked here: umass.edu/.../final_project.pdf. There's another study of interest at  ecy.wa.gov/pubs/92010.pdf... .

[Reminder: you can help us save the Salem  wetlands; please contact these officials. Thank you!]


Writer, singer, linguist and activist Daniel Patrick Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The Greenhouse School. Some of his articles have been broadcast on radio, and translations are available in up to 20 languages. Links to the website are appreciated at danielpwelch.com.