Missouri’s wetlands to stay healthy.”
To get that biodiversity, wetland managers need subtle control over the water that ebbs and flows over wetlands. Better water management infrastructure is at the heart of managing Missouri’s wetlands.
One tool that has led to a greater understanding of how water flows through these areas is LIDAR radar mapping from low-flying aircraft. Area managers and project engineers study LIDAR maps to better understand slight elevation changes and topography details. This lets them do a better job of placing water control structures to mimic natural water flow while reducing infrastructure.
“This is incredibly important for areas in wetlands such as mud flats, where a few inches of water can spell the difference between successful feeding for migratory waterfowl, or something akin to leaving the back door open for invasive species that can quickly inundate an area,” says Nelson.
Wetlands Benefit People
MDC now manages more than 112,000 acres of diverse wetland habitats throughout the state. Missouri’s citizen- led efforts have helped to restore waterfowl populations to levels that rival the plentiful 1970s. Although waterfowl are sometimes the most visible of Missouri’s wetland achievements, the value of these areas reaches far beyond ducks and geese.
During the past half-century, wetland restoration efforts have focused on increasing habitats, restoring floodplains and managing for a greater diversity of species. Today, the value of these areas is more apparent because they provide recreation for millions of people through hunting, fishing, boating and wildlife viewing.
Wetland ecosystems also play an important role in water quality, pollution control and flood control. Wetlands improve water quality by acting as settling basins for upland runoff. Because of their low gradient and thick vegetation, wetlands slow the flow of water, allowing suspended soil particles to settle out. The filtered water is then released into adjacent streams and aquifers.
Wetlands reduce pollution levels by absorbing some of the soluble nutrients in the water flowing through them. In partnership with MDC, wetlands at Eagle Bluffs CA accept wastewater from the City of Columbia as a secondary wastewater treatment. The effluent provides water and nutrients for wetland habitats.
Wetlands also play a vital role in flood control. Wetlands act as giant sponges made up of organic matter and specialized plants—some of which can absorb up to 18 times their weight in water. During periods of heavy rains, wetlands hold water and release it gradually back into the watershed. This helps reduce peak water flows and diminish