There are several types of wetlands, depending on where they are located and the chemical makeup of the water in them. In most cases, wetlands form an intermediate area between a large body of water such as an ocean or lake and dry land, although some inland wetlands form in areas isolated from bodies of water. Wetlands tend to form in areas of low ground, which accumulates water readily, and if allowed to thrive without disruption, they have numerous positive affects on the natural environment.1
Riparian buffer strips are areas of trees or shrubs located adjacent to streams, lakes, ponds, and wetlands. They intercept pollutants before they reach surface and ground water, stop shoreline erosion and provide havens for a number of wildlife and aquatic organisms. Shelterbelts, also called windbreaks, are usually single or multiple rows of trees or shrubs planted perpendicular to prevailing winds that provide protection from wind and snow. These buffers can protect wildlife, farmsteads, cropland, and livestock. They can also dampen noise and beautify the landscape.2
Aquatic Buffers serve as natural boundaries between local waterways and existing development. They help:
Wetlands invite the use of more natural vegetative solutions for erosion control and a greater emphasis on project aesthetics than in other types of erosion control projects. Sometimes, vegetative techniques alone cannot provide adequate protection of wetlands, and they must be combined with other alternatives. A design goal for a wetland protection project should be to use the minimum amount of structural protection necessary. Innovation is often the key to an appealing and successful project.3
Erosion of this fragile ecosystem has been a problem long before the oil spill that threatens fragile, resource–rich Louisiana wetlands.