The objective of this activity is to learn the importance wetlands serve as filtration systems to ecosystems, and for participants to design their own science experiment using creative processes and deductive reasoning to illustrate scientific ecological principles.
Wetlands serve as a natural filtering system, sifting sediments out of the water and recycling nutrients back into the ecosystem. Characteristics of a wetland include annual flood and drought cycles, high amounts of moisture in the soil, and resident plant communities preferring moist environments.
The wetland filtration process works like this: water slows down when it hits a wetland, allowing sediments to flow out of the water and stick to the bottom, while at the same time wetland plants trap suspended sediments and solids in the water. This not only helps slow down erosion, it also prevents waterways from getting clogged with sediments.
When excess nutrients flow into waterways, they often form algal blooms, turning waterways green and killing aquatic plants and animals. However, when excess nutrients flow into wetlands, they are filtered out of the water and recycled, causing the exiting water to be cleaner than when it first entered the wetland. Many wetland plants absorb the nutrients and use them themselves. There are also numerous microorganisms, like bacteria, that convert water-soluble forms of nutrients to inactive forms used in everyday activities – for example excess nitrogen from fertilizers can be converted into inactive nitrogen in the air that we breathe.
Plan a science project to exhibit a wetland filtration system or a nutrient conversion process.
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