Why Are Wetlands Important? Hear from Wilderness Volunteers!

Scenic view of a marshy wetlands

Happy World Wetlands Day! We’re excited to invite our friends at Wilderness Volunteers to share the important work they're doing to protect our wetlands during a time when conservation matters more than ever.

Did you know that wetlands affect every single person living on the planet? It’s true!  Wetlands are often overlooked, yet they play a crucial role in our environment: they support diverse wildlife, help to combat climate change and ensure clean water. 

At Wilderness Volunteers, a nonprofit organization on a mission to engage people in meaningful service that conserves America’s wild places, we are always working to protect our wetlands during this critical era of conservation. But, we understand that not everyone is as clued into what makes our precious wetlands so vital. 

As World Wetlands Day approaches, let's take a moment to recognize these unsung heroes of our ecosystem. Read on to learn all about wetlands and why they matter. 

What Is a Wetland?

Swampy wetland river surrounded by treesSwampy wetland river surrounded by trees

Simply put, a wetland is an area of land that is saturated or flooded with water that influences the soil and vegetation in that area. This can be seasonal or permanent and includes various types of environments such as marshes, swamps, bogs and floodplains. 

An example of a wetland that you may be familiar with is the Everglades National Park in Florida. Known for its extraordinary wildlife and sawgrass prairies, the Everglades, like many wetlands, play a vital role in our ecosystem.

Why Are Wetlands Important?

Wetlands can be small-scale or famously massive like the Florida Everglades. No matter their size, all wetlands deserve to be not only protected but also celebrated. Here’s why:

1. Biodiversity Hotspots

Wetlands are incredibly diverse ecosystems that support a wide range of plant and animal species. They act as a haven for migratory birds, providing nesting areas and food sources. Wetlands also serve as nurseries for numerous fish and amphibian species, contributing to the overall biodiversity of our planet. By protecting wetlands, we ensure the preservation of these unique habitats and the species that depend on them.

2. Water Filtration and Purification

Wetlands are nature's water filters. They act as sponges, absorbing and filtering water as it passes through their vegetation and soil. This natural filtration process helps to remove pollutants, excess nutrients and sediment, preventing them from entering our rivers, lakes and groundwater. By safeguarding wetlands, we can help maintain the quality and availability of our freshwater resources.

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3. Flood Mitigation

Wetlands play a crucial role in mitigating the impact of floods. During heavy rainfall or storms, wetlands act as natural buffers, absorbing excess water and reducing the intensity of flooding downstream. By acting as a natural sponge, wetlands help to protect nearby communities and infrastructure from the devastating effects of flooding. In this way, preserving wetlands can contribute to minimizing flood-related damage and ensuring the safety of vulnerable areas.

4. Climate Regulation

Wetlands are essential in regulating our climate. They store large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses, helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change. When wetlands are drained or destroyed, these stored gasses are released into the atmosphere, exacerbating global warming. By preserving and restoring wetlands, we can actively combat climate change and reduce our carbon footprint.

5. Recreation and Education

Wetlands provide us with opportunities for recreation and education. They offer tranquil spaces for activities such as birdwatching, hiking and photography. Additionally, wetlands serve as outdoor classrooms, educating people of all ages about the importance of these ecosystems and the need for their conservation. By promoting awareness and appreciation for wetlands, we can inspire future generations to become environmental stewards

What Is Wilderness Volunteers?

Wilderness Volunteers cleaning up litter in a woodsy areaWilderness Volunteers cleaning up litter in a woodsy area

Wilderness Volunteers is a non-profit organization dedicated to organizing and promoting volunteer opportunities for outdoor conservation projects in the United States. We work in collaboration with land management agencies, such as the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, to help maintain and preserve public lands and wilderness areas – like our amazing wetlands! 

At Wilderness Volunteers, we offer a wide range of volunteer programs, including:

  • Trail construction and maintenance
  • Habitat restoration
  • Historic preservation
  • Invasive species removal

These projects take place in scenic locations across the country, providing volunteers with the opportunity to engage in meaningful work while enjoying the beauty of the natural environment. Win-win!

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Wilderness Volunteers + Naturepedic

Our brands first connected at the 2022 1% For The Planet Summit, which is an annual gathering of businesses, nonprofits and individuals who are committed to creating positive environmental change. Naturepedic is a 1% for the Planet member, which means they donate 1% or more of their annual mattress sales to environmental organizations like ours, the Wilderness Volunteers.  

Naturepedic has generously supported multiple Wilderness Volunteers projects since 2022 with the next project being Oak Creek Canyon. Oak Creek Canyon is a 12-mile-long gorge carved into the edge of the Mogollon Rim of the Colorado Plateau. The canyon sees over two million visitors each year, and the creek sadly is experiencing harmful effects of being “loved to death.” 

For three years, Wilderness Volunteers has been contributing to the larger effort to reverse the long-term trend of declining water quality in Oak Creek. The goals of our project are to:

  • Close user-created trails
  • Improve and stabilize select trails to maintain access to the creek
  • Prevent future erosion
  • Install features (like one rock dams and mulch) to capture sediment

Huge thanks to Naturepedic for sponsoring this effort! 

Love our Wetlands, Love our Planet

Birds wading in a wetland Birds wading in a wetland

As we celebrate National Wetlands Day, let us remember the invaluable role wetlands play in maintaining the health and balance of our ecosystems and the role that organizations like Wilderness Volunteers play in conserving our environment. We encourage everyone to support wetland conservation efforts and take action to safeguard these precious ecosystems for future generations. Together, we can make a positive impact on the health of our planet.

Interested in donating to Wilderness Volunteers? Here’s how to donate!

Carrie Henderson, Executive Director, Flagstaff, AZCarrie Henderson, Executive Director, Flagstaff, AZ

Carrie Henderson, Wildeness Volunteers Executive Director (Flagstaff, AZ), discovered her love for the outdoors at a young age on annual family vacations to the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota. While attending undergrad at the University of Illinois: Urbana-Champaign, Carrie worked in Yellowstone National Park for a summer and got her first taste of “big mountains.” Carrie went on to receive her Master of Public Administration from the University of Arizona, making her way into nonprofit program and development work at AmeriCorps organizations and two food banks. Carrie considers this position her “dream job” and looks forward to putting Wilderness Volunteers on a positive trajectory into the future.