King rails (Rallus elegans), frogs (Lithobates), salamanders (Ambystoma), spotted turtles (Clemmys Guttata) and 7 other turtle species, Eastern foxsnake (Pantherophis gloydi) and 9 other snake species and fairy shrimp (Anostraca); all species either at risk, threatened, endangered or of special concern in Ontario that dwell in Wetlands.
These creatures are just a partial list of species that make Wetlands their home or use Wetlands as nesting sites, breeding sites, rookeries or a place to rest and take shelter. There are more species at risk, between 20% to 30% in the province, that live in Wetlands than any other habitat.
And acknowledgement has to be made of mammals like moose, deer, rabbits, beavers, otters and the invertebrates, mosquitoes and dragonflies and let's not forget the birds and other waterfowl that dwell or make use of wetland habitat for their survival.
So much life and yet many people think of Wetlands as 'wasteland'.
Provincially Significant Wetlands at Nature Centre-Photo Credit Michael Elmer
Climate change and habitat loss due to destruction and degradation of Wetlands are the primary drivers in the decline of these extraordinary species. Last week we talked about how climate change has negatively impacted Wetlands. As swamps and marshes become degraded, dry up or are allowed to be filled in for future development, wetland and aquatic species are adversely affected.
There are so many examples of how species at risk are affected when our Wetlands are compromised. Here are just a couple:
Jefferson salamanders (Ambystoma jeffersonianum), amphibians, are on the endangered list in Ontario. The best time to see a Jefferson salamander is in the early spring when they travel from their overwintering site in the forest to their breeding areas in the Wetlands.
Jefferson salamander-Photo credit Leo Kenney
They need unpolluted breeding ponds to lay their eggs in clumps attaching the eggs to underwater vegetation. The larvae develop, lose their gills and leave the wetland pond midsummer. Did you know a Jefferson salamander can live up to 30 years?
Here is a quote from the provincial website:
Major threats to the Jefferson Salamander in Ontario include habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and degradation/alteration, road mortality, impairment of wetland/hydrologic function and the introduction of fish to breeding ponds.
https://www.ontario.ca/page/jefferson-salamander-recovery-strategy Blanding's Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) is listed as 'Threatened' on the provincial website.
Blanding's Turtle-Photo credit
These turtles live and hibernate in large wetlands and ponds where there is an abundance of aquatic vegetation. The number one threat to this turtle and our other 7 species in Ontario is loss or fragmentation of habitat.
These species and many more are disappearing at an alarming rate. Wetlands can no longer be degraded, fragmented or filled in for development that causes loss of habitat for these amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, plants and trees.
We and we alone are responsible for putting these treasured, sentient beings in harm's way and for the loss and destruction of their habitat. We can no longer use the excuse that we are not cognizant of the impact our actions and decisions have on our native species and on nature itself. We need to understand the importance of the remaining Wetlands we have and the significant role they play. We need to take actions that sustain and protect these productive ecosystems and the wildlife that dwell within these rich lands. Let's stop the conflict that exists between developing lands for future commerce and conserving lands for our native wildlife friends. We will find another way. Our Wetlands are instrumental in maintaining a healthy environment. We too can be instrumental in Saving Our Wetlands!
If you are interested in a complete list of species at risk please visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/species-risk-ontario