Why are wetlands so important?
Many animals depend on wetlands for some part of their life-cycle, like fish, frogs and mosquitoes. Wetland plants are supporting many other organisms in food chains to form a rich web of life, from simple fungi to mammals. Many fish find shelter and food in the wetland. Water that falls as rain are soaked up (like a giant sponge) by wetlands and so controls flooding. In dry times when there is not much rain, wetlands help keep rivers and streams flowing wetlands make water clearer and filter out things that make water impure, like chemical pollution. Wetlands are great places to visit to look, listen and experience natural life.
Why are wetlands so important to people?
Supply water for domestic and agricultural use (grazing of domestic stock, used by South Africans for centuries). Planting crops and catching fish- excellent food source. Natural materials such as reeds used for building houses (thatching or hut construction). Items like baskets and mats are weaved from reeds providing a source of income for families. Traditional medicines are made from certain wetland plants. Many wetlands are popular wildlife and tourist destinations, such as St Lucia. Local people can be trained as tourist guides in wetland areas – job creation.
Did you know? The isiMangaliso Wetland Park in Kwazulu-Natal, is habitat to a population of the Coelacanths, which was believed to be extinct, before one was caught in 1938 off the eastern coast of our country.