I think about two years ago I bought my younger niece a really neat book titled ‘101 things to do before you turn 13!’ Although mostly US focused, it had cool stuff one could do anywhere in the world..probably both kids and adults. Being the outdoor kind, I try to inspire and implore them to enjoy the same. My younger niece is pretty game to try anything new (just like me!)..so this year we decided to revisit the book and list all the remaining 51 things we need to do/see/visit. Two of them were 1. visit a wetland and 2. visit a landfill..
Both places are outdoor but very opposite in nature. I don’t think I have visited a wetland and I have certainly not visited a landfill ever..So, I decided let’s research both sites before actually landing there.
Wetlands are extremely valuable natural resources consisting of unique environments in which soil is saturated with water for all or most of the year. These areas, considered to be the most biologically diverse ecosystems, protect land from flooding and storm damage by absorbing the brunt of it. In addition, wetlands help to prevent soil erosion, because the plants and trees that live in them form dense networks of roots that hold the soil in, preventing it from washing away.
Many wetlands actually create accumulations of rich, nutritious soil upon which plants, animals, and birds can thrive. One of the most important functions of a wetland is to act as a buffer zone between a body of water and dry land. For this reason, many countries around the world have embarked on wetlands conservation programs.
What is interesting about the conservation of wetlands is that it is one such initiative which demands a minimum investment in terms of money as well as resources. Also, the time taken to successfully implement a conservation program is very low compared to other projects. However, despite the ease of their preservation, wetlands are the among the most threatened ecosystems in the world today.
The primary reason that wetlands are destroyed is to create agricultural land. However, industrial and residential construction, mining, and oil and gas production also contribute to their destruction.
The loss of wetlands has a devastating impact on the millions of trees, plants, birds, fish, amphibians, and insects that depend on those regions for their existence. Migratory birds around the world depend on the existence of healthy wetlands as havens for feeding, resting, and breeding. Also, wetlands act as natural water filters, absorbing pollutants and contaminants from water before it flows into rivers, streams, and lakes, thereby keeping us safe!
Excellent reasons for protecting these biologically rich and unique ecosystems from more harm, don’t you think? A famous wetland in US is the Everglades National Park in Florida. Another famous one outside USA is the Sunderbans, in West bengal, India. This used to be the home of the majestic Indian Tiger; India’s national animal.
A concept similar in name and concept is that of watershed. So what’s a watershed vs. wetland? Good question. Watershed is any area that has water flow from it into a water source. Basically we all live in some defined watershed or another. On doing a little online research, I found out that I didn’t know the watershed area I lived in..so I am going to email someone and find out..meanwhile, I did find this..
Here’s a better web stolen definition: A watershed is the area of land that drains into a body of water such as a river, lake, stream or bay. It is separated from other systems by high points in the area such as hills or slopes. It includes not only the waterway itself but also the entire land area that drains to it. For example, the watershed of a lake would include not only the streams entering the lake but also the land area that drains into those streams and eventually the lake. Drainage basins generally refer to large watersheds that encompass the watersheds of many smaller rivers and streams. (source: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/watershedmgt/basicinfo.htm)
Althougg kind of diametrically opposite from Wetlands; they too are equally important and worth visiting. The former’s beauty will inspire you to be more environmental while the latter’s ugliness will sicken you into causing less pollution which eventually ends up in a land fill.
Landfills may include internal waste disposal sites (where a producer of waste carries out their own waste disposal at the place of production) as well as sites used by many producers. Many landfills are also used for other waste management purposes, such as the temporary storage, consolidation and transfer, or processing of waste material (sorting, treatment, or recycling).
A landfill also may refer to ground that has been filled in with soil and rocks instead of waste materials, so that it can be used for a specific purpose, such as for building houses. Unless they are stabilized, these areas may experience severe shaking or liquefaction of the ground in a large earthquake.
Search online for a landfill and wetland near you, then take your niece or nephew to that place and discover it together. Don’t forget to carry your camera too!