Our disappearing wetlands

Water birds galore on Reay Mackay Grove.

We have quite a few wet areas around Waikawa Beach, with the notorious flood-prone paddocks along Waikawa Beach Road, the two lakes at the end of Strathnaver Drive, and others. Other notable nearby areas are the spontaneous lake on Strathnaver Drive, the lake on the property at the south end of Reay Mackay Grove, and lakes Huritini and Waiorongomai, along with the many streams through our rural properties.

Wetlands act as purifiers for polluted water, absorb carbon from the atmosphere, and provide a home to threatened birds. They also support frogs and insects, and of course, replenish our aquifer.

Many locals cherish our abundant birdlife, with black swans, ducks, Canada geese, Royal Spoonbills, pied stilts, oystercatchers, white-faced herons, shags, pukeko and many others.

Map from https://whenuaviz.landcareresearch.co.nz/place/76618. These ‘historic’ swamp lands (in brown) are very evidently still swamp, as we see whenever there’s plenty of rain.

Historic swamp.
Historic swamp.

Map: shows flood hazard areas (in green).

Flood hazard area per Horowhenua District Council.
Flood hazard area per Horowhenua District Council.

The other day was World Wetlands Day, and this item appeared in the news:

Royal spoonbills live in our disappearing wetlands. The are they only species of spoonbill that breed in New Zealand. …

An estimated 30,000 hectares of wetlands have been either fully or partly destroyed since 2001, according to data released by Forest & Bird to mark world wetlands day.

It amounts to around 13 per cent of the nationwide wetlands area that existed in 2001, which was already severely depleted. 

Wetlands come in many forms: Marshes, swamps, bogs, tarns, and fens, to name a few. The common denominator is that they are saturated with water, resulting in a particular type of ecosystem, usually featuring aquatic plants and a wide range of birds, such as waterfowl and waders.

Long before human settlement, wetlands likely covered large parts of the country.

An analysis in 2008 estimated wetlands once covered nearly 2.5 million hectares, or around 10 per cent of New Zealand’s land mass. …

They can help solve several environmental problems: Wetlands act as purifiers for polluted water, absorb carbon from the atmosphere, and provide a home to threatened birds. …

The theme of this year’s World Wetlands Day is climate change, which intends to highlight the role of wetlands in fighting both the causes and the effects of global warming.

“Healthy wetlands will help protect people and wildlife from the impacts of climate change,” said Forest & Bird’s freshwater advocate Annabeth Cohen.

“We need every single wetland we’ve got—and more—if our native bird and fish species are going to stand a chance in the face of climate change.”

Source: New Zealand’s disappearing wetlands continue to be destroyed | Stuff.co.nz.

Strathnaver paddock underwater July 2017.
Strathnaver paddock underwater July 2017.

This and nearby paddocks in the historic swamp area of Strathnaver Drive was underwater for months in 2017. Photo: July 2017. The puddle stretched most of the way or all across the road for months and connected with drowned paddocks across the road.

Lake behind Uxbridge Sept 2017.
Lake behind Uxbridge Sept 2017.

This lake appeared in the paddocks at the east end of Uxbridge Terrace and stayed for months in mid-2017. Photo: September 2017.

Lakes at the end of Strathnaver Drive.
Lakes at the end of Strathnaver Drive.
Lake Waiorongomai and lake at the south end of Reay Mackay Grove.
Lake Waiorongomai and lake at the south end of Reay Mackay Grove.
Lake Huritini.
Lake Huritini.

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