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The World of the Wetland

Marshes and bogs are the most common types of wetlands in the Okanagan. Marshes are filled with grasses and make up more than 90 percent of the total wetland area. Bogs are peat-accumulating wetlands that support the growth of mosses. Bogs dominated by Sphagnum moss store about one-third of the carbon locked up in the world's soils. Much is at stake, as these unheralded wetlands provide oases for dozens, if not hundreds, of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world.

Wetlands are sometimes called the "kidneys of the landscape." They serve as natural filters, removing pollution from waters flowing through them, while purifying and recharging aquifers below. Water is cleansed as wetland soils and vegetation trap sediments, heavy metals and pathogenic microbes. Wetlands also sift out nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus that cause eutrophication ­ the increased production of organic matter that can degrade water quality and threaten fisheries. It's hard to underestimate the economic value of this natural filtering is immense, reducing the need for costly water purification facilities.

Flood control is yet another important service provided by wetlands. They act like sponges, sopping up water from rain and overflowing rivers and storing it in temporary reservoirs, thereby retarding the flow of floodwaters. Since most flood damage is caused by peak flows, wetlands help by changing sharp runoff peaks into slower discharges. During dryer periods, wetlands perform the opposite role: they can mitigate droughts by storing water during the wettest times of the year and slowly releasing it during the driest times. Wetlands are unrivaled in their ability to regulate the flow of this precious liquid, insure its quality and make it available for a wide variety of uses.

Wetlands are "biological motherlodes" that help to sustain threatened and endangered species. These sodden zones provide essential habitats, breeding and feeding grounds, and resting areas for a variety of plants, fish, crustaceans, birds, mammals and insects. Birds, including more than half of migratory species, depend on wetlands for food or sanctuary. These regions are not just important for ducks, turtles and frogs, as humans benefit from them too ­ probably in more ways than can ever be calculated. Small wetlands of just a few acres or less may constitute the bulk of the wetland area. And for certain animals, such as frogs, toads and salamanders, small wetlands support a greater species diversity than large ones.

Wetlands occupy a small portion of the Western Interior Basin of BC due to the region's climate, soil, and topographic features. Nevertheless, they play a crucial ecological role particularly because wetlands in arid areas support more species than other ecosystems. Wetlands of the Okanagan support many species at risk. Most wetlands in this area are located in valley bottoms where development is also concentrated and wetland loss has been extensive since European settlement mainly due to conversion for agriculture and more recently for urban development. Between 1800 and 2005, specific wetland communities suffered different degrees of loss, including, 92% of shrubby water birch red-osier dogwood riparian wetlands, 63% of black cottonwood red osier dogwood riparian wetlands, and 41% of cattail marshes from the south Okanagan and lower Similkameen valleys. Wetlands continue to be lost and degraded by urbanization, intensive agriculture, and, in some areas, heavy recreational use. In addition, invasive species and climate change pose serious threats.

Okanagan Wetlands Regeneration Alliance Okanagan Wetlands Regeneration Alliance Okanagan Wetlands Regeneration Alliance Okanagan Wetlands Regeneration Alliance Okanagan Wetlands Regeneration Alliance The
Okanagan Wetlands Regeneration Alliance

Okanagan Wetlands Regeneration Alliance is a group of progressive citizens, groups, companies, institutions, organizations and communities who want to put nature back into the centre of Okanagan life.

The Alliance was formed to apply the principals of ecology to the wetlands of the Okanagan Basin, which are the source and heart of the future of human habitation and economy of this area, and which are in continuous need of study, understanding and regeneration.

Please contact:
Robert MacDonald, Director
1473 Ethel Street
Kelowna BC V1Y 2X9
Telephone: 250.870.2690
Email: click here

The Partners in the Wetlands Alliance are
  • Okanagan Basin Water Board
  • District of Lake Country: James Baker, Mayor
  • Okanagan Greens: Angela Reid, President
  • Okanagan Institute: Robert MacDonald, Director
  • Okanagan College: Douglas MacLeod, Associate Dean, Science and Technology
  • Community Futures of the Central Okanagan: Larry Widmer, Director
  • Summerhill Organics and Wildcraft: Gabe Cipes, President
  • Okanagan Nation: Chad Eneas, En'owkin Centre
  • Okanagan Network for the Environment: Deb Thorneycroft, Coordinator
  • Aspire Media Works: Geoff Millar, President

    The Alliance welcomes participation from members of the public, as well as from companies, organizations and institutions of all kinds.
  • Okanagan Wetlands Regeneration Alliance
    Okanagan Wetlands Regeneration Alliance

    Published under a Creative Commons copyright. Created, designed and hosted by the Okanagan Institute.