Wetlands, what are they? We think their natural processes can also be relevant for your own humble garden area. Listen also to our 2020 podcast series on the subject!
Wetlands, what are they?
The general definition of ‘wetlands’, under the so-called Ramsar international wetland conservation treaty, applies around the world. But each county and region tends to have its own definition for several purposes.
Let’s put it simply here: wetlands are distinct ecosystems that are partially or entirely covered with water. Which means they are large communities of living organisms in particular areas where flooding occurs.
This flooding can be permanently or seasonally. Wetlands can be tidal or non-tidal.
The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other landforms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation of aquatic plants, adapted to the unique hydric soil.
Wetlands play a number of functions. Think of water purification, water storage, processing of carbon and other nutrients and stabilization of shorelines. Wetlands have international importance as habitat for numerous species. This is partly so because wetlands are transition zones.
In nature, biodiversity is at its best when there are many gradients. This means: many gradual transitions. Like shady and more sunny spots, damp and dry soil, spots with various temperatures.
In transition zones, many different species find the exact habitat they like.
So, when you want to manage an ecological garden, it’s important to understand this gradient principle.
Wetlands in gardens?
You would like your garden to be an attraction for lots of insects, birds, hedgehogs and the like. We assume your backyard is a humble area, compared to big and wellknown wetlands of the world. So, what’s the relevance of wetlands for you?
The scale of your garden doesn’t have to leave you empty-handed. You can always put in wetland elements. In permaculture, we learn a lot from natural processes. Make use of the gradient concept and make your own tiny wetland area.
- Create soft edges with lots of ground covering plants
- Apply at least one sloping pond edge, preferably in a sunny spot.
Small creatures can warm up in the shallow water. Birds can have a bath. And frogs can easily walk in and out.
- Choose oxygen producing water plants
- Avoid vigorously growing plants like common reed or duckweed
- Make safe places for birds and small creatures.
Why not cover your pond with a couple of hazel canes to give birds a cat-safe place to drink? They look very natural, too!