Breath of Clarity

Comment #2: Riparian Ecosystems and Wetland Values

Original Post by Will Magnum:

Compare and contrast the hydrology, function, and geomorphology of riparian ecosystems with forested swamps (like cypress) and freshwater marshes. Discuss the hydrology …geomorphology ..and function of each one of the wetlands separately first. Then discuss their similarities and differences.

The riparian ecosystems within a forested swamp provide many necessary nutrients to the surrounding wetlands. The hydrology of a forested swamp such as the hardwood forest wetlands in Cameroon, West Africa have monsoonal flooding, but there is an annual dry period. Many of the tree’s roots spend long periods of time saturated. The monsoons last for months with flood pulses followed by an annual dry season. Flooding during high periods of rain brings nutrients to the surrounding wetland environment. Freshwater marshes rely on flood pulses from rainfall and the riparian ecosystem represents that need for nutrients.

Both marshes are heavily dependent on flood pulses and the water movement throughout the wetlands (Mitch and Gosselink 2015). The sources of water and where the wetlands are located are different. The presence of other sources of water also differ in that freshwater relies on precipitation and hardwood forests rely on runoff and precipitation (Mitch and Gosselink 2015). Another difference is that forested swamps are depressional which makes runoff a more significant source of water. In freshwater marshes, the areas are mainly riverine which run alongside rivers and streams.

Make a convincing argument for the preservation of riparian wetlands using their value to the natural world and ecosystem balance … then discuss their value to man’s quality of life.

The preservation of riparian wetlands is vital to healthy ecosystems; however, many communities do not even know what is happening. Community engagement is important in preserving an area’s ecosystem. Many people within these communities lack the knowledge of riparian wetlands and think that they are not able to do anything. Bringing the potential loss of a riparian ecosystem to the community and helping the people understand the value they hold can be a tremendous help in preserving them. The riparian ecosystems are nutrient rich and carry those vital nutrients to plants and animals. The loss of such nutrients would decrease species’ populations.

Wetlands have vital roles when it comes to protection. The storm protection marshes can provide is vital to the survival of not only humans but other species as well. Another aspect of wetlands that benefits humans is having a source to dispose of elements such as nitrogen and phosphorus mainly from agriculture. If handled properly, the wetland benefits from having a healthy amount of agriculture runoff and the farmlands can dispose of their runoff in a beneficial way.

3. How can we better live with wetlands? – or in a more sustainable fashion keeping wetland and human needs in balance.

We can better live with wetlands by implementing policy on a local level and providing the community with the knowledge of local wetlands. When I visited my wetland in Franklin on the Little Tennessee River Greenway, there were signs that talked about how the wetland functioned in the area and why it was so important to preserve and sustain. The placement of a greenway helped preserve the wetland from development and provide humans with a recreational opportunity with minimal development. Local policy is then influenced by the community members that have seen the importance wetland environments. The policies are then brought into the wetland ecosystem in a preservation outlook rather than development.

Many wetland environments are either destroyed or relocated when development decides to happen. Land protection cannot protect every area, but policies that prevent development could help the area. The lack of significant policy surrounding wetlands is astonishing and the processes of which they are destroyed is because of a lack of knowledge. To preserve wetlands, the solid research must be presented in a way that shows how significant the wetland knowledge is.

View the video and discuss some of the characteristics of riparian wetlands found in the video with those discussed in the power points.

Riparian wetlands had at one time taken over the land and healthy and abundant forests grew. Urban development has continued to destroy wetland environments. The lack of regeneration of the wetland vegetation destroyed the dispersed forested areas. The riparian forests have practically disappeared because of human development and the engineering of dams and other energy sources. When human development controls a riparian wetland, species either die or relocate. A significant part of the video of was talking about farm bills and working for the FSA, I work with Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) which Professor Flanagan mentioned. The inclusion and support of farm bills helps to negate human development in certain areas and supports the idea of implementation of policies on wetland areas. I also work with Soil and Water Conservation and many times; they do not allow development on floodplains or wetland areas.

The destruction of riparian wetlands is terrible however, humans have benefitted from this development in many ways. We have new energy resources that we did not once have. The development of urban areas is important to grow an area economically. There is a balance between sustaining a wetland ecosystem and development. Regeneration is a significant aspect of wetland ecosystems and should be undisturbed to regenerate. The sustainable development of lands will allow wetland ecosystems to exist without disturbance, but also allow humans to benefit from the natural environment.


Flannagan, Kathryn. 2021. ““Riparian Flooding”.” Wetland Ecology and Management. Lecture, July 27.

Flannagan, Kathryn. 2021c. “Urban Deforestation.” Wetland Ecology and Management. Lecture, July 26.

Mitsch, William J., and James G. Gosselink. 2015. Wetlands. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

My Comment:

Hi Will (Question 2),

Good point that riparian ecosystems provide nutrients for the plants and animals that inhabit them. I found a video about decline of salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Riparian zones have the potential to increase the population. As we covered in this course, the banks of the rivers have a significant impact on water quality. Trees and shrubs in the riparian zone provide shade that helps keep the water at low temperatures. Fallen trees help slow strong currents and create safe spaces for fish to hide and rest. Since the standing vegetation keeps the banks stable, the soil won’t erode and muddy up the water during high flows which would otherwise smother the salmon eggs. Finally, the video mentions that past development has resulted in the present, continuously declining salmon population today. It then discusses the optimal width for a riparian zone. It varies per watershed. Still, though, the general rule is that the zone should be as wide as the height of the dominant tree species at full maturity.

The video made me think of a problem that is happening locally in the Asheville area. Eastern hemlocks are dying at an alarming rate to due the Hemlock Wolly Aldelgid. Since hemlocks provide shade for waters that trout swim in, there is concern for the wildlife species. Considering that trout is a desirable species for fishermen, it may help to explain conservation problems in terms of how they would impact certain species that are desired for outdoor activity.


Northwest Treaty Tribes. 2020. “Welcome to the Riparian Zone”.