Ben­e­fits of wet­lands on farm prop­er­ties

Matamata Chronicle - - What’s On - BALA TIKKISETTY

In­ten­sive farm­ing prac­tices can dis­charge sig­nif­i­cant amounts of con­tam­i­nants, no­tably ni­tro­gen, phos­pho­rus, sed­i­ment and pathogens into our wa­ter­ways.

Wet­lands are like giant kid­neys pro­tect­ing the health of wa­ter­ways – they help di­lute and fil­ter ma­te­rial that could other­wise harm our lakes, rivers and other wa­ter­ways. Nat­u­ral wet­lands have been ap­pro­pri­ately termed as the ‘kid­neys of the land­scape’, be­cause of their abil­ity to store, as­sim­i­late and trans­form con­tam­i­nants lost from the land be­fore they reach wa­ter­ways.

With World Wet­lands Day on Fe­bru­ary 2, it is a good time to re­flect on these and other ben­e­fits that wet­lands pro­vide. Wet­land is a generic term for the wet mar­gins of lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, es­tu­ar­ies, la­goons, bogs and swamps.

Wet­lands once cov­ered large ar­eas of the coun­try. Now they are some of our rarest and most at-risk ecosys­tems.

It is es­ti­mated that about 90 per cent of New Zealand’s wet­lands have been drained.

This is one of the largest wet­land losses any­where in the world. Wet­lands now oc­cupy only about two per cent of the coun­try’s to­tal land area.

So the com­bi­na­tion of more agri­cul­ture and less wet­land con­trib­utes to the risks to our rivers and streams, but this also in­di­cates strate­gies for re­duc­ing the ef­fects of agri­cul­ture – by in­cor­po­rat­ing wet­lands into farms. Some­times it may be as sim­ple as fenc­ing out ex­ist­ing wet ar­eas, or it might in­volve cre­at­ing one with a low bank.

Many farms have low ly­ing and wet ar­eas that can be man­aged as small wet­lands with min­i­mal im­pact on farm pro­duc­tion, but po­ten­tially ma­jor ben­e­fits for wa­ter qual­ity and bio­di­ver­sity.

Ni­tro­gen and phos­pho­rous en­ter wa­ter­ways through ground wa­ter and sur­face runoff. Wet­land veg­e­ta­tion uses these nu­tri­ents for growth.

Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil can of­fer free ad­vice to landown­ers on man­ag­ing wet­lands, in­clud­ing in­for­ma­tion on fenc­ing, plant­ing and weed con­trol.

This Waikato dairy and dry­s­tock farm has 12 wet­lands of var­i­ous sizes, 5ha of manuka planted and an­other 8ha planned.

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