The importance of wetlands for healthy watersheds

Wetlands play an important role in the health of watersheds in Maui, Hawaii, and other areas. Wetlands are areas of land that are characterized by the presence of water, either permanently or seasonally, and they provide a range of ecological, economic, and societal benefits.

One of the primary functions of wetlands is to filter and purify water as it flows through the watershed. Wetlands are often referred to as “nature’s kidneys” because they remove sediment, nutrients, and other pollutants from the water, improving its quality and helping to protect downstream water bodies.

Wetlands also help to regulate the flow of water in a watershed. They can absorb and store excess water, helping to reduce flood risk and protect against erosion. This is particularly important in areas that are prone to heavy rainfall or flash flooding, as it can help to protect against damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure.

In addition to these water-related functions, wetlands also provide habitat for a diverse range of plant and animal species, and they can support recreational activities such as birdwatching and nature appreciation. Overall, the health of watersheds in Maui, Hawaii and other areas depends on the presence of healthy wetlands, and it is important to preserve and protect these important habitats.

Some of the ways in which wetlands contribute to the health of watersheds include:

  1. Water quality improvement: Wetlands can filter and purify water as it flows through the watershed, removing sediment, nutrients, and other pollutants from the water and improving its quality.
  2. Flood control: Wetlands can absorb and store excess water, helping to reduce flood risk and protect against erosion.
  3. Habitat for wildlife: Wetlands provide habitat for a diverse range of plant and animal species, including many that are endangered or threatened.
  4. Recreational opportunities: Wetlands can support recreational activities such as birdwatching and nature appreciation, bringing economic benefits to the local community.
Kalepolepo Wetlands at Ka'ono'ulu at the mouth of the Kulanihakoi gulch
Healthy watersheds mean healthy wetlands. Photo D.Dorn

Here are some articles that provide further information on the importance of wetlands in the health of watersheds:

  1. “Wetlands as Settings for Human Health: Incorporating Ecosystem Services and Health Impact Assessment into Water Resource Management ” Pierre Horwitz, C. Max Finlayson, Wetlands as Settings for Human Health: Incorporating Ecosystem Services and Health Impact Assessment into Water Resource Management, BioScience, Volume 61, Issue 9, September 2011, Pages 678–688, https://doi.org/10.1525/bio.2011.61.9.6
  2. Zollitsch, B., Stelk, M., Schiller, S., Seary, S., & Dooley, B. (2019). Healthy Wetlands, Healthy Watersheds: Leveraging state wetland restoration and protection programs to improve watershed health. Association of State Wetland Managers, Windham, Maine. https://www.nawm.org/pdf_lib/watershed/healthy_wetlands_healthy_watersheds_white_paper.pdf