Soil and Water Conservation

Johnston County, North Carolina

Coastal Wetlands Issue


Erosion poses a problem for shore lands by removing soils and sediment that support plant and animal life.Erosion can strip away important sediment layers and change the habitat's ability to support life.Extreme erosion can create stream flows that drain coastal wetland areas.

Dredging and Coastal Wetland Loss

Dredging, filling, and draining of wetlands has destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of coastal habitat.Also, dredged materials from navigation channels are often deposited alongside streams in wetland areas. For many years, it was thought good land practice to improve wetland "wastelands" by filling them in or draining them for mosquito control.

Wetlands are now protected by Section 404 of The Clean Water Act. Under this law, the discharge of dredged or fill materials into the waters of the U.S. requires a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.This has prevented the loss of may wetlands, however, wetland loss and degradation continue to be a significant environmental concern.

Red Tide

Red tide is a natural phenomenon brought on by too many nutrients in the water which can cause uncontrolled growth of microscopic organism or type of plankton called a dinoflagellate. These organisms can multiply to the point where the water actually looks red. The organisms contaminate shellfish, making them unsafe for human consumption.Red tide can also cause fish kills and damage vegetation.

Non-point Source Pollution In Bays

Non-point source pollution is a problem for bays as well as any other waterway, but here its consequences can be more severe.Since bays are typically shallow, non-point source sediment pollution can quickly fill and clog waterways and wetland areas.Sediment can also cause temperature changes that can reduce oxygen levels and kill marine life.

Nutrient pollution from farmlands can also create havoc in bays.Algal blooms from nonpoint source pollution can have similar effects of reducing oxygen levels and killing existing life. And toxic pollution can quickly settle into shallow bay waters and infiltrate productive fishing and spawning beds, killing or contaminating fish and plant life.

Development Of Coastal Areas

Coastal development has been and continues to be a major threat to wetlands.Coastal property has high real estate value, and developers find it difficult to preserve wetland areas when faced with profit potential from private wetland areas.And even if wetlands aren't destroyed during development, the additional pollution from development can disrupt the delicate environmental balance of wetlands, changing habitats forever. The nation's largest estuary, Chesapeake Bay, suffers many environmental problems as a result of extensive development within its watershed.

10 Reasons Wetlands Are Important

  1. Fish, wildlife and plant habitats:Wetlands are critical to the survival of a wide variety of organisms.For many, wetlands are the only places they can live. For others, wetlands provide important food, water, or cover.
  2. Critical habitats for endangered species:A number of rare and endangered species depend on wetlands for survival. The destruction of wetlands endangers these species even more.
  3. Flood control and protection:Some wetlands store either flood waters or water that collects in isolated depressions.Trees and other wetland plants can help to slow the speed of flood waters. These functions help protect nearby property from flood damage.
  4. Water quality improvement: Wetlands are good water filters. They can filter surface water runoff before it reaches an open body of water and help filter nutrients, waste, and sediment from flood waters.
  5. Shoreline erosion control: Wetlands located between rivers and high ground can help to buffer shorelines against erosion.Wetland plants strengthen the sediment by binding soil with their roots;they also dampen wave action.Some states are recommending the planting of wildlife vegetation to control shoreline erosion in coastal areas.
  6. Reduction of flood damage: Wetlands serve as buffers between the winds and waves of storms and the areas beyond.Property located behind wetlands along the seashore on large lakes often fares much better during storms than those that are not located behind wetlands.
  7. Groundwater recharge: Water sits in wetlands and is slowly released into the ground. The released water is filtered as it works its way down through the wetland, thereby improving the quality and quantity of the water which eventually reaches and replenishes our groundwater supplies.
  8. Natural products:Wetlands produce a wealth of natural products, including timber, fish and shellfish, wildlife, blueberries, cranberries, and wild rice.
  9. Recreation and aesthetics:Wetlands provide many opportunities for recreational activities, such as hunting, boating, and fishing.Many artists and photographers seek to capture the beauty of wetlands and wetland plants and animals each year.
  10. Education and research:Although much more is known about the functions of wetlands today than in the past, researchers are still studying them to determine all the benefits and values they bring to people and the environment.

(Information provided by : Soil and Water Conservation)

Page last updated: July 22, 2022