Photograph by Richard H. Wiegand
What's the point of wetlands? In addition to their vital functions of flood control and water filtration, they are also home to many endangered species. Next time you are near a pond or walking through the wet woods of the Coastal Plain (east of I-95) look around for buttercups growing in the mud. These (usually) 5-petalled yellow flowers might be the Yellow Water-crowfoot.
This plant likes its feet wet; it loves saturated soils. It can be found in quiet waters and muddy soils, including shallow water canals, seasonally flooded swamps, and vernal pools (temporary pools formed during the rainy season – spring - very often support unique flora and fauna).
As you might imagine, anything that alters the hydrology, or water conditions, of a site will threaten the viability of the yellow water-crowfoot. Upstream development or some agricultural practices are often cited as potentially harmful (potential because sometimes alternative practices are available that better serve both the development and the natural community). Invasive species encroachment is another danger; invasive non-native plants will often follow close on the heels of human activities. Maintaining "clean" conditions takes some dedication, remaining vigilant to possible invasive species encroachment and removing the threat before it becomes overwhelming.
Practices that are implemented to protect rare species are often directed toward protecting their habitat. This results in the conservation of the important ecological processes of that habitat. If a wetland can remain healthy, with appropriate water conditions and with the unique aquatic soil structure in tact, it will continue to benefit humanity, not only by providing us with a diverse selection of species, like the Yellow Water-crowfoot, and natural communities but also with continued water filtration and flood control.
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