By Cynthia Cassel
As I mentioned in my blog article last week, we’re presenting a multi-part series during May to showcase the diverse wetlands of the four EPA Region 7 states and to celebrate the 25th anniversary of National Wetlands Month. Please join me as I travel to my picturesque home state of Kansas.
My husband was transferred to Washington State and then, 12 Julys later, transferred back to Kansas. Veteran road-trippers that we are, we decided to crisscross the state to re-familiarize ourselves with the landscape.
What I know now, that I didn’t then, was that a vital part of the landscape is water-based. We saw a lot of green and gold on this round-trip from one corner of Kansas to the next and back again. I said a quiet “thank you” to all the producers of the good food that comes from their hard work.
After driving through one of those beautifully dramatic (not to mention loud) Kansas summer thunderstorms, we also saw farms with areas of standing water called Wet Meadows and Farmed Wetlands. As you read the descriptions below, think of these as vital pit stops for groups of tired and hungry birds as they migrate through Kansas.
Wet Meadows and Farmed Wetlands
As vital as water is to us, so it is for the fowl, mammals, and amphibians that call those farms their habitat, whether just for a short time or permanently. Next time you see Wet Meadows or Farmed Wetlands here in the Heartland, say a quiet “thank you” for the puddles and pools that are part of the landscape as well.
Wet meadows are wetlands that occur in poorly drained areas and have herbaceous (non-woody) plants, such as sedges, rushes, and wetland wildflowers. Precipitation serves as their primary water supply so they are often dry in the summer. Water generally does not stand in these wetlands. During periods of high rainfall, wet meadows collect runoff, reducing the likelihood of seasonal flooding to low-lying areas downstream and, in the process, removing excess nutrients from runoff like a natural filter. This nutrient-rich environment provides vital food and habitat for many insects, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals.
Temporary or seasonal wetlands, usually depressions lined with clay soils, are farmed at least once every few years. Farmed wetlands produce large quantities of insects for food and resting areas for migratory birds. Dark soils that warm early in spring provide food earlier, attracting higher shorebird and duck use and providing habitat for waterfowl breeding grounds all year. Farmed wetlands filter excess nutrients (such as phosphorous, nitrates, and pesticides) from field runoff. These wetlands also filter carbon that otherwise might be released into the atmosphere to produce carbon dioxide, thus helping protect the ozone layer.
Cynthia Cassel has worked as a Senior Environmental Employment (SEE) Program grantee with EPA Region 7’s Wetlands and Streams Protection Team for 5½ years. She received her Bachelor of Science from Park University. Cynthia lives in Overland Park, Kan.