Wetlands play vital role in Camp Lejeune’s ecology

14 Apr 2010 | Lance Cpl. Victor A. Barrera

Although Camp Lejeune is a military base where training is conducted for combat readiness, another one of its goals is restoring wetlands in the area to their natural state.

“For every acre impacted, be it by roads or housing, an equal amount of land has to be restored somewhere else,” said Martin Korenek, wildlife manager for Camp Lejeune. “Currently there are 1,250 acres of wetland that are preserved.”

Wetlands however, have not always been paid attention to.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than 100 million acres of wetlands in the United State’s have been destroyed. Whether the damage is due to natural environmental hazards or mankind’s economic development America’s wetlands are steadily declining at an alarming rate. From 1950-1970 losses averaged around 458 thousand acres a year.

In spite of these astounding statistics the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said, people are becoming more educated about the importance of wetlands. Contributions such as protecting wildlife, filtering polluted water and protecting inlaying cities from natural disasters demonstrate how important wetlands are in Earth’s preservation.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service states that at least one-third of the nation’s threatened or endangered animal species live in wetland environments.

Animals such as black bears, deer, wood ducks and the American alligator, have all migrated to wetland areas in hopes of surviving in a natural habitat.

Preserving a wetland environment is no easy task. Ditches are filled in or “plugged” with soil and vegetation that is compatible with wetland areas is brought in and planted in the hopes that it will kick-start the ecosystem.

After the natural water and vegetation has returned, environmental personnel monitor the site for the next five years. They sample the vegetation, test the soil and water, along with counting the growing number of plant species.

“Most wetlands at one time were drained,” said Korenek. “We bring back the water and bring in plants that are found naturally in the wetlands to try and bring back the ecosystem. We don’t bring animals; however, they come in naturally.”

The human population benefits from the natural protection and water management that wetlands offer as well. Coastal marshes bear the brunt of the force that hurricanes and water currents throw on communities. They also act as a natural water purification system by filtering out and absorbing pollutants, chemicals and extra nutrients which can cause algae blooms.