Car­ing for ‘na­ture’s kid­neys’

The Tribune (NZ) - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - JILL RAPSON, ECOL­OGY, MASSEY UNIVER­SITY

There is an old say­ing that ‘‘wet­lands are the kid­neys of the planet’’, so one would hope our wet­lands were in good nick.

That way they would sup­ply our drink­ing water, store our flood water, clean up our waste water, and re­turn it to us fit for (re-)con­sump­tion.

Wet­lands are also im­por­tant habi­tat for a huge range of species, no­tably birds such as bit­terns and crakes, but also fish, in­ver­te­brates, plants, and many or­gan­isms too small to see.

The ex­tremely rare long-fin eel is fast los­ing its hab­it­able wet­lands due to dairy ef­flu­ent. Swards of neinei or Carex secta are a thing of the past, al­ler­gic to pol­lu­tants such as hy­dro­car­bons that have been washed off roads.

In Manawatu¯, we hardly have any wet­lands left - only 3 per cent of the orig­i­nal sur­face area re­mains. Most have been logged or drained for agri­cul­ture.

Only tiny pock­ets of wet­lands re­main, and these are mostly dis­turbed - af­fected by drainage, weeds and pests.

As we can­not af­ford to pay the bil­lions of dol­lars it would cost to use tech­nol­ogy to do what wet­lands do for free, we need to look af­ter our wet­lands, or they will de­cline fur­ther.

Wet­lands are best looked af­ter by pro­tect­ing them from wan­der­ing stock, plant­ing a belt of trees and shrubs around them as a buf­fer zone, restor­ing any lost aquatic plants such as flax, and leav­ing the water clean and undis­turbed to pro­vide nat­u­ral habi­tats and ser­vices to all or­gan­isms.

For­est & Bird’s monthly get­to­geth­ers this year in­clude talks on wet­lands. On May 8, Pro­fes­sor Rus­sell Death of Massey Univer­sity’s Fresh­wa­ter Ecol­ogy will talk about ‘‘The lit­tle things in our wet­lands: a for­got­ten fauna in a for­got­ten habi­tat’’.

On June 12, Dr Phil Bat­t­ley of Massey Univer­sity’s Wildlife & Ecol­ogy Group, will talk about ‘‘Wet­lands birds of New Zealand’’. Monthly talks are held sec­ond Tues­day of each month at 7:30pm at the City Li­brary.

PHOTO: JILL RAPSON

Lake Pauri, a small wet­land near Kaitoke, south of Whanganui, which is full of water-fil­ter­ing plants that lock up nu­tri­ents and other chem­i­cals.

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