Celebrating the wonders of wetlands in Nevada
Wetlands are the link between land and water – where the flow of water, the cycling of nutrients, and the energy of the sun meet to create highly productive ecosystems with unique plant and animal life. In recognition of American Wetlands Month in May, the Nevada Natural Heritage Program (NNHP), within the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, is providing education on the vital importance of wetlands to Nevada’s ecological, economic, and social health.
In broad terms, wetlands refer to all wet areas that provide ecosystem services and habitat for plants, wildlife, and aquatic species, including: wet meadows, seeps and springs, playas, riparian areas, perennial streams, and intermittent/ephemeral washes. Often referred to as the “kidneys” of a watershed, wetlands are renowned for their ability to remove toxic substances, excess nutrients, and harmful pollutants from the water. Interestingly, wetlands may not be wet year-round, and some of the most important wetlands are seasonally dry transition zones.
Although wetlands cover a relatively small amount of land in Nevada, the benefits of these biological powerhouses – including improved water quality, increased water storage/supply, reduced flood and storm surge risk, and essential habitat for plants and wildlife – are indispensable to the State. More than 300 native animal species, such as the Bald Eagle and northern river otter, and over 50 native plant species are dependent upon Nevada’s wetland habitats. Additionally, approximately two-thirds of Nevada species listed as state or federally threatened or endangered live exclusively in wetlands, while dozens more wetland-dependent species are considered sensitive or rare.
Unfortunately, in addition to being the driest state in the nation, it is estimated that Nevada has lost approximately 52% of its historic wetland acreage over the years. The remaining wetlands continue to be threatened by numerous factors, such as water diversion and development. NNHP continues to work closely with its partners to develop and promote innovative solutions to monitor, assess, and preserve our natural wetland environments.
“Wetlands serve as a lifeline to many of Nevada’s diverse species, and the Nevada Natural Heritage Program, in collaboration with our partners, is excited to further coordinate efforts in support of these important resources,” said Kristin Szabo, NNHP Administrator. “Together, we strive to foster the health and wellbeing of our precious wetland resources, today and for generations to come.”