The benefits of wetlands in Florida

Reporter: Elizabeth Biro

Wetlands make up nearly a third of Florida’s land.

You might think it’s swamp land, but they’re actually a defining feature of our natural landscape.

Wetlands have a lot of nicknames.

Some people call them the kidneys of the landscape, sponges or natural stormwater treatment areas.

Whatever you call them, they have innumerable benefits for the Southwest Florida ecosystem.

Without them, “We would have a much bigger issue with flooding when we have storms like Ian. So if we thought that flooding was an issue after Ian or Irma, that would get worse,” said Brian Bovard, a professor at FGCU’s Water School.

Without them, Florida would lose all of its natural, free water filters.

“The excess nutrients that are on the landscape that seemed to be resulting in harmful algal blooms, and maybe potentially related to red tide events. Those types of issues would become more prevalent in the estuaries and in other bodies of water here,” Bovard said.

It may not look clean from up top, but the water is actually clear.

After storms like Nicole and Ian, the wetlands also act as an extra cleanup crew.

“Even while we’re cleaning up all the debris and whatnot, the wetlands are working hard at improving that water quality,” said Randy Smith, with the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

The water filter function is part of the reason South Florida Water Management District works to protect wetlands and construct more.

The water filter function is part of the reason SFWMD works to protect wetlands and construct more.

Smith said they operate around 70,000 acres of wetlands south of Lake Okeechobee.

“So by the time it’s released on the south end, and it’s headed for the Everglades, it’s good, clean water,” Smith said.

Smith said with every major Everglades restoration project, there is a wetland component that works with it.


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