Taking a walk through the lush wetlands is a delight this time of the year. The winding tracks and sturdy boardwalks that open up hidden new worlds. The thick bush, fringing vegetation and the canopy of swaying trees. Startled animals we catch off-guard that quickly scamper away. And, the thin blanket of mist that lies settled over the water.
We discover a different pace and rhythm as we let go. Unwind. And absorb a hundred splendid experiences that the wetlands offer unbiddenly. There is such peace and tranquillity here.
We are fortunate that our wetlands are so close to our urban dwellings. We are able to enjoy their unique splendour and partake in their beauty. But being so close to urban habitation poses a serious threat to our wetlands. Urban run-off, littering, leaching and degradation – there are several impacts that continue to take a toll.
As much as the wetlands are places of recreation and pleasure, they are also grounds that support delicate ecosystems, intricate bionetworks, diverse wildlife and their habitats. They require our care and attention. Here are 10 simple things we can do to help our wetlands:
1. Household Plants and Gardens
By practising a little care in our gardens, we can help the wetlands immensely. For example, limit your use of chemicals – fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides or fungicides – and use organic remedies instead. These potent chemicals can leach into groundwater, and subsequently into the wetlands. Use animal manure that is great for the garden and has no unpleasant side-effects.
Be careful while discarding plants or seeds. Our non-native household plants can be invasive and dominate over native flora. The same goes for aquatic plants from our aquariums. They must not be dispensed into the wetland catchments.
2. Pets and Pests
Our cuddly pet animals can be quite destructive. Cats are known to prey upon native species – turtles, frogs and even lizards. Rabbits can wreak havoc on plants by binging on them, any fresh regrowth and seedlings. Rabbit faeces are known to carry and spread weeds.
It is best to keep pets indoors or under supervision. They are likely to cause less harm if they are not allowed to stray. On a similar note, pests that are introduced into the wetlands can have a detrimental effect on the wetland ecology.
3. Waste and Recycling
Using safe, sustainable and eco-aware methods of waste disposal will go a long way in protecting the wetlands. Reduce the use of plastic, whether it is plastic water bottles or disposable plastic containers, straws and cutlery. Reuse and recycle to the maximum possible extent.
Maintain a worm farm or compost pit at home. Compost can be great for your garden, and you will be amazed at how much of your waste – like cardboard, paper, egg shells and tea bags – can be put to good use. Get your children involved.
4. Reduce Pollution
Reducing pollution can begin at home with some relatively small but consistent steps. Be conscious of your choices. Buy organic, eco-friendly and sustainable products. Your local farmers markets can be great places to shop.
Be energy-conscious and use energy wise appliances. Avoid throwing away stuff carelessly. If you find litter in public parks or wetlands, be considerate, pick it and throw it in the bin. Every step counts.
5. Conserve Water
Lifegiving water is central to wetland health. Observe the wetland vegetation. Their leaves, limbs, roots and other remarkable features help them conserve water. Even wetland wildlife is adept at using water, a vital resource, judiciously.
Turn off the tap when not in use and use only as much as you need. Check your pipes and fittings regularly for any leakages. Harvest rainwater. During the summer months, water your plants early in the mornings.
6. Healthy Wetland Vegetation
Healthy vegetation is crucial for sustaining life in the wetlands. This includes upland vegetation, fringing vegetation and aquatic plant-life. Wetland vegetation is highly specialized, in that it has evolved to thrive in varying conditions of dampness and salinity.
Within the wetland catchments, ecosystems flourish based on an energy exchange between living organisms and the non-living environment. Leaves or branches from overhanging trees and shrubs, fall and are broken down by microbes, bacteria and fungi. These, in turn, become food for larger animals within the food web.
You can help in the conservation and rehabilitation efforts – by planting native flora, creating habitats for wildlife and participating in citizen science projects and initiatives.
7. Help Wetland Wildlife
Much like the wetland vegetation, wetland wildlife too is exposed, fragile and susceptible. Turtles that live in the swampy wetlands are known to venture out, cross busy roads or polluted areas in search of suitable nesting sites. Similarly, snakes and bobtails too are known to sneak-out to bask in the sun during winter months. Accidents are common and animals get run over. It is also common for animals to get entangled and hurt in the plastic debris.
Animals sometimes venture into homes and gardens, looking for nesting sites or grounds to lay eggs. There are many ways in which we can help these animals, by looking out for them, helping them get to their destination and protecting their eggs or hatchlings.
Apart from the permanent wetland residents, some migratory birds use the wetlands for resources. The dwindling bush and fringing vegetation and the changing environmental conditions are posing a serious threat to all their lives.
8. Important Contact Information
It can be useful to locate and carry information on local bodies responsible for wildlife rescue, wetland rehabilitation and conservation work, and research organizations. This can be especially significant if you reside in an area close to wetlands. We encourage you to keep such information handy.
At the Wetlands Centre, we are involved in wetland conservation, rehabilitation, research and education work. We can be contacted through phone, our website or through our social channels. We welcome your messages.
9. Learn and Educate
Wetlands are fascinating worlds that open doorways to some interesting natural activity. Take the initiative to deep dive and learn about the wetlands – their mysteries and intricacies. While there are several avenues for learning, there are also avenues for teaching, educating and spreading awareness.
10. Participate and Volunteer
At “The Wetlands Centre Cockburn”, we are a warm, friendly, community-based organization. We are located in the heart of Beeliar Regional Park, in the vicinity of the beautiful Bibra Lake. Visit our centre nestled in nature. Take a look at what we do.
We run a range of educational programs all-year-round. We have a fantastic community outreach. And, our in-house nursery and Seed Propagation Areas (SPAs) are our pride and joy.
There is so much you can do! Come begin this journey with us and help us restore our wetlands for everyone to enjoy!
Also published on Medium.