Wetlands are Wonderful
Imagine a huge, oozing creature with weeds for lungs and rivers for veins. It drinks by slurping up rain and it gobbles sunbeams for food. No, it’s not a monster from the slimy deep. It’s a wonderful wetland! You see, each part of a wetland ecosystem is needed for the whole system, or organism, to work.
We have freshwater and saltwater wetlands and a whole bunch of names to describe the different kinds, including lake, river, marsh, swamp, bog, fen, muskeg, pothole, puddle, and slough. All of them teem with wildlife.
A lot of wetlands are disrupted or destroyed to make way for farms and buildings. Others are poisoned with pollution. But so many species need these soggy homes to survive. Almost half of Canada’s 462 bird species depend on wetlands. And 42 of our imperiled plants and animals can’t live without them either. That’s why we have to bend over backwards to take care of these splashy splashy spaces!
Water Bodies on the Mend
Sad news. We have ruined many healthy bodies of wildlife that call the Great Lakes home! With our thoughtlessness, we have changed this precious ecosystem forever. Some species have completely disappeared, many have seriously declined, and the threat to human health is just as alarming. Today, governments, industries, and conservation groups are working together to reverse some of this damage. Billions and billions of dollars are being spent. And although there are encouraging signs of recovery, there is still much work to be done.
One enormous cleanup that has been going on for decades involves the Great Lakes. With a total area of about 250,000 square kilometres, lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, along with the St. Lawrence River, form the largest system of fresh surface water on Earth. Just imagine the multitudes of wildlife that call the Great Lakes home! But, with our thoughtlessness, we have changed this precious ecosystem forever. Some species have completely disappeared, many have seriously declined, and the threat to human health is just as alarming. Today, governments, industries, and conservation groups are working together to reverse some of this damage. Billions and billions of dollars are being spent. And although there are encouraging signs of recovery, there is still much work to be done.
The polluted waters of the St. Lawrence Estuary and the Gulf of St. Lawrence are especially bad news for Beluga Whales. There were once 5,000 of these gentle sea mammals here. Just a few hundred remain today. As many as 25 different toxic chemicals have been found in Beluga carcasses. In fact, their bodies are so contaminated that they are treated as toxic waste. You can read about efforts to drastically reduce the chemicals poured into the river – such as The St. Lawrence Action Plan (SLAP) (1988 – 2003) – here.
Adopt - a - Stream
Concerned citizens across Canada have declared war on garbage dumped in watery habitats. Groups have "adopted" sections of nearby streams. Volunteers regularly patrol the spots to clean up garbage — everything from rusty old motors to stoves and plastic bags. If your class would like to get involved, your province or territory may have similar programs. Contact your wildlife agency for details.
Tracking down Turtles
Nova Scotia's Wood Turtle needs your help. Much of its habitat has been disturbed by agriculture and forestry. Potential nesting sites are ruined by the trampling hooves of livestock as well as projects to stabilize meandering stream banks. Wood Turtles are also easy to catch as they bask along riverbanks and are often collected as pets or curiosities.
This long-lived species probably doesn't reproduce until about 15 years of age. So, even the loss of a few adults can have a drastic effect on numbers. Here's how you can help:
- Find out all you can about this reptile and learn to identify it easily.
- Inform your school, family, friends, and neighbours about the species' plight.
- Never take a turtle home or remove it from where you find it.
- If you see a Wood Turtle, take note of the location and date, then contact your provincial wildlife agency. Sightings from the public will help wildlife managers keep track of this reptile's movements and range.
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