Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Valuing our Wetlands

Wetlands are areas where the land is submerged by water. This includes streams, lakes, taro patches and inter-tidal areas. With the decreasing availability of land, taro patches and coastal inter-tidal areas are being reclaimed. Tourism development will continue to encourage wetland reclamation because tourists like to have a room right next to the sea. But wetlands are important. If wetlands continue to be reclaimed, there will be nowhere to plant our taro. There will also be nowhere for surface water to collect during heavy rain and streams and waterways will overflow. Flooding will be more frequent. The plants in wetland areas also act as a natural filter, removing soil and pollutants from surface and ground water and protecting our coral reef and lagoon. The plants and animals such as the fiddler crabs and paspalum grass can’t live in other environments and the tupa (butcher land crab) gets its food from this area. The taro plots and fish ponds on our islands have existed since the arrival of Polynesians and are therefore centuries old. They act as a monument to the lifestyle of our ancestors and are therefore sometimes an undervalued but important part of our natural heritage.

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