Charleston, W.Va. – In honor of World Wetlands Day, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Program (WVDEP) is announcing it has received a wetland program development grant of $322,702 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The grant will allow the WVDEP to update wetland mapping for 23 counties in West Virginia and develop public outreach programs to encourage community involvement in citizen science and wetland protection.
Wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world – comparable to rain forests and coral reefs – and can be thought of as "biological supermarkets." They provide great volumes of food that attract many animal species, such as small insects, shellfish, fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. Many species of birds and mammals rely on wetlands for food, water and shelter, especially during migration and breeding.
In addition to providing a natural habitat to fish and wildlife, wetlands function as natural sponges that trap and slowly release surface water, rain, snowmelt, groundwater and flood waters. Trees, root mats and other wetland vegetation also slow the speed of flood waters and distribute them more slowly over the floodplain. This combined water storage and braking action lowers flood heights and reduces erosion.
Wetlands also act as natural water purifiers, filtering sediment and absorbing many pollutants in surface waters. Wetlands are vital to the health of our communities and perform valuable ecosystem functions, including water purification, shore stabilization, floodwater retention, groundwater recharge, and more. West Virginia is home to numerous types of wetlands, such as swamps, fens, marshes, and vernal pools, and can be found in every county in the state.