The Clueless Environmentalist
Have you ever felt like you really wanted to do something for the environment but you didn’t know what? Or, like everything that people were saying about the environment was interesting but you didn’t know exactly how it related to you or even what it really meant? Or maybe you just feel frustrated that the world is changing and you have no idea how to make a difference.
That’s how I feel. I hear what the environmentalists are saying, but quite honestly, I don’t quite get it! And I really want to do something about it! I do! I just don’t know what or how.
And that’s when I realised that there are probably hundreds, maybe thousands, of people out there who want to help our small island through proper environmental practices, but the truth is that they are just as clueless as I am.
So I decided to take action. Each time I hear something about the environment I am going to tell you about it in a way that you can understand it. And together we’ll start our journey towards making a real difference.
What’s my name? You can call me Clueless. Clueless Environmentalist, that is.
Lesson 1 – Wetlands
I was chatting away the other day with someone who is, what I would call, an Environmentalist. I was really trying to impress him with my ‘knowhow’, so I mentioned that the Body Ponds area is SUCH an important wetland in Antigua and went on and on about how he could incorporate that wetland into one of his projects.
Then there was silence. I think I heard crickets.
He then looked at me and informed me that the Body Ponds area is not a wetland, it’s a part of a watershed. Apparently a watershed is an area that allows water to drain into a larger body of water, like the sea
And that’s when I got confused. If it’s land and it’s wet, isn’t it a wetland?? Obviously it was time to do some research!
I went online and found that a wetland is land or areas that are often covered with shallow water or have soil that is saturated with moisture. One of the unique features of a wetland is the plants that live there. The plants are called hydrophytes, which is really a big word for saying that it can live in water and adapt to it. Examples of wetlands are marshes, bogs, and mangrove swamps.
And that got me thinking! Mangrove eh? But, what does a mangrove swamp REALLY do? All I can imagine when I think of a mangrove swamp is stinky smells and insects! What’s so great about that?
So again, I did some research. I soon discovered that mangroves are trees and shrubs that grow in saline (brackish) coastal habitats in the tropics and subtropics, and are important as a habitat for many animals and assist with coastal land building.
So it would appear that the wetland type called a mangrove swamp serves an important function. But I was not quite sure if that was the only function, so I called up the professionals… I spoke with the Fisheries Division.
There I found out that mangrove systems protect the island from disaster. When there are storm surges the mangroves act as a barrier and therefore reduce the impact of possibly harmful waves. When it rains, soil flows down towards the water and the mangrove acts as the first filter. These mangrove systems also assist with the process of purifying the water so that only clear water goes out to the coral reefs. This is important because if the coral reefs were covered by silt they would suffocate and eventually die
Mangroves also serve an important function for the Fisheries of Antigua since fish go there to have their babies, or to spawn. The fish that eventually mature in the mangroves eventually leave that safe haven and swim in the open seas where our fishermen catch them. Without the mangroves our fishermen would be unable to provide us with the fish that we enjoy.
Antigua and Barbuda has four species of mangroves: Red, Black, White and Button Mangroves.
Mangroves can be found all around Antigua’s inlets, however some mangrove woodlands can be found in Parham Harbour, Fitches Creek and Guiana Island. Barbuda’s most significant mangrove can be found surrounding the Codrington Lagoon, and is the Frigate bird Sanctuary
So, that mosquito infested area is important! Without it, our lives and livelihoods would be in serious danger.
Ok! So now we have an idea of what a wetland is as well as an example of a wetland, the mangrove swamp. Now, the question is, what can we do to protect them.
- Practice proper solid waste disposal. If we use the swamps as a dumping site it can eventually affect the health of the fish that live there. Consider that these are the same fishes that we eat; if they are unhealthy then so are we.
- Do not cut down mangroves not even to make fishing nets.
- Respect the wetland and its functions the next time that you pass near to one.
- If you live next to a mangrove, or in the general area, you can start a campaign against its destruction
That’s it! Being environmentally friendly and conscious is easy! You’d be surprised how you can help that land that is wet.