Too Much of a Good Thing?

In his classic Don Quixote, Cervantes poses the question, “Can we ever have too much of a good thing?”

One’s childhood instinct is, of course, to believe that it’s inconceivable! Too much candy?? But the wisdom of age and experience tells us otherwise.

© Bujará, Bolo Hauz

And so it is with nutrients. And especially with nutrients in our waters.  Nutrients are no more than chemicals found in everything alive which are necessary, in the right proportion and balance, to life itself – the life of people, plants and animals – indeed all organisms. Common nutrients are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur.  Some of these you may have seen on the list of ingredients in the fertilisers you use for your household plants, or in your garden or for your lawn.

Well, agriculture has used these fertilisers, initially over the eons from natural sources such as manure and decaying plants and other organic matter, and now in our modern chemical age from unlimited industrially created compounds.

So what does this have to do with wetlands? It turns out quite a lot. Not only do wetlands serve as a nature-based solution for the accelerating devastation caused by the climate emergency, but they also provide a filtering and cleansing function, similar to the human kidney, for our water that is more and more polluted by modern agriculture’s excessive dependence on chemical fertilisers. Our water is also increasingly degraded by urban development and the often untreated waste and pollution that results.

The fertilisers, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, which farming and agriculture use in such abundance usually infiltrate into natural ecosystems and contribute to poor water quality. One devastating result is what’s called eutrophication.  This excess nitrification can easily create algal blooms and “dead zones” which we have all seen mentioned in the evening news. Indeed sometimes when we head to what we hope is a glorious beach, we find instead an unappetising soup of “scum” which can even be toxic to us.

A “dead zone” has excessively low oxygen concentrations and can lead to die-offs of marine life that cannot escape. One scientific study suggests that eutrophication may have created 245,000 square kilometers of “dead-zones” world-wide, about the size of the whole United Kingdom.

Wetlands’ complex makeup can remove these excess nutrients before they can do their deadly work. Through a blend of physical, chemical, and biological processes, the nutrients may be adsorbed (sticking to something solid), absorbed, transformed, sequestered and ultimately removed as the water slowly flows through the coastal wetland. The newly-cleansed water can then safely join the sea without killing everything with which it comes into contact.

So when you next head to the ocean and pass the adjacent wetlands, slow down and take a closer look at the hard work that’s taking place there to naturally clean our water. Restoring precious wetlands not only protects the water we drink, fish and swim in, but helps absorb carbon from our atmosphere to fight climate change, and absorbs and stores excess water from dramatic weather events such as flooding and drought. There is no such thing as much too much of this good thing, wetlands

Life begins in wetlands.

Coastal wetlands have provided humanity with a wide range of benefits and life-enhancing qualities since the dawn of time. But now they’re disappearing at an alarming rate.

Our stories showcase Mediterranean coastal wetlands, the people who protect them, and the challenges they face.

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The Ancestral Wetlands of Ghar El Melh: Feeding the Mind, Body and Soul

The Ancestral Wetlands of Ghar El Melh: Feeding the Mind, Body and Soul

The Ancestral Wetlands of Ghar El Melh: Feeding the Mind, Body and Soul Have you ever taken a bite from a fresh tomato grown by a traditional farmer in Tunisia’s Ghar El Melh wetlands? It’s a delight for the palate – but it’s so much more than that. Behind this scarlet fruit lies an ancestral, ... Read More

‘Amicus Certus in re Incerta Cernitur’ – a Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed

‘Amicus Certus in re Incerta Cernitur’ – a Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed

FRRead this post in FR

Wetlands offer holistic contributions to addressing the planetary crises through their various intrinsic functions and attributes – what scientists, and increasingly much of the concerned public, are now calling Nature-based Solutions, or NbS in our acronym-crazed world! Read More

Danilo: the Fisherman of Cabras

Danilo: the Fisherman of Cabras

“In the old times fishing began in September, now we start in March. Everything has been intensively exploited for decades, and we are now paying the consequences. The rain is irregular, the reeds die and some species become extinct because of the exceeding salinity of the water”, explains ... Read More

Wetlands & People: A Vital Connection

Wetlands & People: A Vital Connection

Wetlands & People: A Vital Connection is a short animated video, which captures the deep rootedness of wetlands in our lives, our souls and our history – and the way in which we humans increasingly threaten them. Read More

One Flew Over a Flamingo’s Nest

One Flew Over a Flamingo’s Nest

Collared Pratincole - Glareola pratincolaRead the article in FR | AROne flew over a flamingo’s nest As Europe plots the elements of the EU Green Deal, its specifics due out in 100 days, March 2020, and the Climate COP ends in Madrid, Off Your Map reminds our leaders that wetlands play a ... Read More

Stormy Weather

Stormy Weather

In coming decades the climate crisis will cause a rise in the frequency of catastrophic natural events. For the nearly 180 million people living in the Mediterranean coastal area, from Barcelona to Cairo, this means surviving an increasing number of extreme storms and flooding, and ... Read More

Coast Day 2019

Coast Day 2019

ARRead this post in AR

FRFR

Each year on 25 September, Mediterranean countries celebrate ‘Coast Day’: this celebrates the importance of coastal areas as natural, cultural and socio-economic resources that contribute to sustainable development. Read More

Breaking News: Amazing victory for Montenegro’s bird paradise!

Breaking News: Amazing victory for Montenegro’s bird paradise!

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FRFR

At long last, the salt pans of Ulcinj Salina have been declared a national protected area! For the past 15 years, the Center for Protection and Research of Birds of Montenegro (CZIP), partner of BirdLife, has fought tirelessly to block a controversial building development poised to destroy one Read More

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