As the weather begins heating up and formerly dry, cool air gives way to hot temps and humidity — as we in D.C. know all too well! — the current climate encourages a discussion and reminder about arguably one of the most important local ecosystems to many countries worldwide: wetlands.
Fostering a myriad of benefits too innumerable to count (though we’ll certainly try!), wetlands provide much-needed erosion control and act as natural filters, cleaning and purifying our water supply. They impede stormwater and runoff flow, reducing catastrophic flooding events, and can increase our groundwater supply. They also provided crucial habitat for fish and terrestrial species alike — in fact, up to 43 percent of threatened or endangered plant and animal species within the U.S. rely on these dwindling habitats for survival. In addition, from an anthropologic perspective, wetlands provide a canvas for multiple recreational activities, including canoeing, hiking, and more, and through species diversity and flooding mitigation, wetlands are an unequivocal economic commodity for the U.S.
In recognition of these and other benefits, American Forests has participated in multiple wetland-focused projects throughout the years. In 2005, we continued this notion with the third installment of our Cranesville Swamp Conifer Restoration, where we helped restore red spruce to the Cranesville Swamp Preserve, one of the few remaining boreal bogs in the southern United States. With a unique micro-climate as it is situated in a natural bowl, or “frost pocket,” the Cranesville Swamp displays conditions often more consistent with northern ecosystems. As such, it provides a distinctive abyss for species such as the showshoe hare, black bear, porcupine, multiple birds, and the rare southern water shrew and bog copper.
However, this initiative certainly was not the first nor last time we ventured into working within swamps and other wetlands. In 2002, we planted nearly 140,000 seedlings to reforest the Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge, an area that provides a safe haven for black bears, bobcats, otters, mink and more. In addition, we planted more than 9,000 trees in our Canaan Valley Seepage Swamp and Upland Forest project in 2007, restoring a formerly overdeveloped wetland area recognized by the Department of Interior as a National Natural Landmark.