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World Wetlands Day

Long Island's wetlands are at risk

Long Island's wetlands are at risk

Today, February 2, is the 47th anniversary of the first international Convention of Wetlands, which was held to focus government attention on the critical environmental and human value of wetlands. These diverse natural communities include marshes, swamps, bogs, mudflats, and other saturated lands, that are both ecologically valuable and critically important to all of us as nursery grounds for shell and finfish. Many wetlands also provide natural buffers for stormwater, floodwater control, and significant protection against coastal storms and erosion. 

On Long Island, tidal wetlands are found in varying degrees all across our 1600 miles of linear shoreline and they are an essential component of our Long Island way of life. Recognizing the importance of these unique habitats, New York State passed the Tidal Wetland Act in 1973. Despite numerous conservation efforts, many of Long Island's wetlands were lost to development and today, many are still at risk from nitrogen pollution.

Increased nitrogen pollution from untreated sewage has been directly related to a dramatic increase in harmful algal blooms - resulting in fish kills, turtle kills, and a loss of commercially valuable finfish and shellfish - that degrade the value of our local wetlands. Scientific research has also shown that excess nitrogen weakens and kills eelgrass, which provides vital underwater habitats for scallops and finfish. Nitrogen has also been shown to weaken the root structure of tidal marshes, leaving them vulnerable to collapse and destruction in the face of coastal storms and wave energy.

There is no question that Long Island's wetlands need our help. So, as the rest of the world celebrates World Wetlands Day, let's think globally and act locally. Take steps at home to limit your impact on water quality, contact your elected officials and tell them to help residents reduce nitrogen in our bays and harbors, and upgrade your septic system with a new advanced treatment system that will substantially reduce to nitrogen pollution coming from your home wastewater. Suffolk County and some East End towns, including East Hampton, Southampton, and Shelter Island have generous rebate programs to help qualified homeowners pay for the cost of a new advanced treatment septic system.

Join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today and take action to protect Long Island's wetlands!