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Chicago Urban Gardening

The day to day experiences of a University of Illinois Extension Urban Horticulture Educator in Chicago, Illinois

May is American Wetlands Month

Posted by Ron Wolford -

Over one hundred years ago, much of Illinois was covered with some type of wetland. Since then most of the natural wetlands in Illinois have been drained or otherwise destroyed.

However, there is now an increased awareness that wetlands perform very necessary functions in the environment, as well as providing an aesthetic appeal, and that there must be a balance and co-existence of wetland with other land uses. Wetlands are no longer just considered "swamps" or "wetholes".

"To continue to increase that awareness, each May, American Wetlands Month is celebrated across the country. More information about the celebration and possible activities can be found on the U. S. EPA website," reports John Church, University of Illinois Extension Educator, Natural Resources, Rockford.

Wetlands are some of the most complex habitats that exist. They perform crucial biological, physical, and chemical functions that provide value to a community and its environment. Whether it is a native wetland or a restored wetland, there are many values that can be gained by its function.

Some of the functions of wetlands include surface and subsurface water storage, nutrient cycling, particulate removal, maintenance of habitat, water filtration, and groundwater recharge. The destruction of wetlands can reduce the effectiveness of these functions and cause problems in the local and wider area environmental balance. For example, the lack of wetlands to store water can increase stormwater runoff in communities causing more flooding; reducing wetland area can reduce groundwater recharge in local areas that depend on groundwater to drink; and less wetlands can mean more sediment and contaminants running off into streams or rivers.

As these issues have become more recognized, there has been an increased level of research being conducted to provide adequate field drainage and proper stormwater management, while still protecting the environment.

Individuals and communities can do their part to protect wetlands. For more information, contact University of Illinois Extension, the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, or check the U.S. EPA website at

Source: John Church, Extension Educator, Natural Resources Management,

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