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Wetlands for Nature and People

Last changes: 2019-08-22

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About wetlands

What are wetlands?
The most common types of wetlands are raised bogs, rivers, lakes, swamp forests, floodplain forests and meadows, areas where land and water merge.
In such areas specific ecosystems are formed, being permanently or seasonally saturated with water. Wetlands have a very special role both in nature cycles and lives of humans. For example, wetlands purify the water and accumulate the abundant nutrients, thus absorbing them and preventing their leakage into the sea.
Wetlands help to prevent flooding by temporary storing large water masses and later slowly releasing them. Wetlands are natural carbon storages helping to mitigate the climate change.
Wetlands host huge numbers of plant and animal species adapted to life in wet conditions. Many of these species are rare and threatened.

Why should we save wetlands?
Natural filters
Natural wetlands such as seasonally flooded meadows along rivers serve as biofilters purifying the waters. The nutrients including organic pollution from agriculture accumulate in nutrient-rich floodplain soils and are uptaken in the lush vegetation. In a modified floodplain, the nutrient-rich waters run off quickly through the straight ditches and drain directly into larger rivers and further to the Baltic Sea, while in a natural system it gets gradually absorbed. The algal blooms and consequent oxygen depletion both in freshwaters and the Baltic Sea are largely caused by low capability of nutrient retention in modified wetlands.
 
Natural sponges
Wetland forests, raised bogs and floodplains capture large amounts of water during the floods, afterwards gradually releasing the water and thus serving as a huge sponge. Whereas, straightened streams and drainage ditches, similarly to pipelines, quickly release the waters causing high risk of vast floods downstream.
 
Elimination of climate change
Global warming has become one of the major challenges in the contemporary world. Scientists have discovered that wetlands are natural carbon storages. Wetland drainage causes decomposition of peat and other organic materials stored in the naturally wet ground. When the peat gets decomposed, it releases large amounts of greenhouse gases, CO2 and methane, into the atmosphere.

Restoration of wetlands
Over the last decades scientists from many countries have concluded that wetlands have a crucial role in nature and human lives. Therefore it is worth to take care of them and restore these vulnerable ecosystems.
All over the world, more and more attention is paid to restoring the natural hydrological regime of wetlands. Also in Latvia with support of the EU LIFE+ programme hydrological regime has already been restored in more than 10 raised bogs including Teiči Bog, Cena Mire and Ķemeri Raised Bog (northeast part). Moreover, in 2013 the restoration works will be completed in Aizkraukle Mire, Aklais Mire and Rožu Mire in Zemgale as well as Melnais ezers Mire in the vicinity of Riga.
In 2006, the formerly straightened Slampe River was re-meandered into a 4.6 km long stretch. This was the first project of such scale in the Baltic countries. In Ilūkste municipality, there is an ongoing project on the re-meandering of the Dviete River (to be done until 2014) aimed at recovery of natural floodplain system and floodplain meadows.
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