MDC is celebrating the 75th anniversary of putting the state’s citizen-led conservation efforts into action. In this issue, we highlight the conservation and restoration of important public wetlands throughout the state. Many have undergone extensive renovations to improve both wildlife habitat and access that will benefit generations to come.
When you see a sunrise at a wetland, it will change your perception of the place forever. From the darkness, liquid light pours forth and fills the wetland. The world takes on a golden hue. The sound of thousands of gabbling waterfowl electrifies the air. You’ll get pulled right into the pulse of the wetland.
These dynamic interchanges between land and water have long held a special place in the hearts of Missourians. As they should. Wetlands are the most productive ecosystems in the world. Because of their value to countless species of plants and animals, conserving and restoring wetlands is a primary goal of MDC.
“Our mission is to conserve fish, forest and wildlife resources. And wetlands are very productive in terms of all three,” says Gene Gardner, MDC’s wildlife diversity chief. “Even Missourians who never visit wetlands are better off because healthy wetlands exist. Wetlands improve water quality, help reduce flood damage to farms and communities, and help recharge local water supplies.”
Wetlands Benefit Wildlife
Wetlands are biologically rich, with a greater mix of plant and animal species than is found in drier habitats. They provide excellent habitat for all kinds of waterfowl, shorebirds and songbirds. More than a third of the birds that regularly nest in, or migrate through, the state depend on wetlands for part of their life cycle. More than 200 rare or endangered wildlife species use wetlands as their primary habitat. Wetlands along streams and rivers are important as fish spawning and rearing areas, too.
Managed wetlands benefit from vegetation and water level management because waterfowl, migrating shorebirds and hundreds of other wetland-associated wildlife require a variety of wetland habitats and water depths. Some migratory birds require deep, open water. Others require shallow water or newly exposed mud flats. Just as each species of bird has different migration times, they also have different habitat needs during migration. Raised hills or mounds in a wetland can increase the attractiveness of the area for shorebirds. Vegetation on these mounds attracts nesting birds. Varying water depths result in greater wildlife diversity.
The Ebb and Flow of Missouri’s Wetlands
Missouri once had about 4.8 million acres of wetlands,