The wetlands that occur in nature are there for a reason. Besides supporting vast amounts of wildlife, they can help to weaken the often catastrophic effects of a hurricane. In order to understand how they do this, you need to understand what exactly is considered a “wetland”.
Whenever you think of the term “wetland”, most of us picture the bayous of southern Louisiana. In fact, wetlands exist on roughly every coast in the United States and Canada. These can include any type of bog, swamp, fen, or marsh. The wetlands are recognized by soil, animal and plant life, and by the levels of water and the amount of time it stays full throughout the year. Determining what kind of wetland it will be classified as, can depend on everything from climate conditions to human interference.
When a hurricane first hits any kind of land, it loses its strength. One driving force of any developing hurricane is the amount of moisture it picks up from the ocean. When it crosses over onto land, it loses this fuel; thus weakening it.
A wetland, because of its vegetation and form, always has some give to it. It’s wet, but not like water. The bottom of a wetland is thick like mud, but it is still pliable. With the roots of its vegetation buried in the mire, it is able to withstand the first assault of a hurricane reasonably well.
The wetland, by taking the initial blow of the hurricane, has taken the force and rolled with it. It will further benefit the coastline and residents by minimizing flooding, and this in turn will help to save on land and property loss.
The wetlands of the United States are swiftly diminishing by at least 500 square miles a year. Louisiana suffers the most. This state alone lose 25 square miles a year; that’s the equivalent of one acre every 33 seconds. Canada is losing its wetlands with percentages ranging from 29% to 71%. The reasons behind these losses is mostly by human hands. With land developers and industry changing the basic structure of the wetlands by cutting into them to build or collect natural resources.