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The Power Of Wetlands: Supporting Plants, Animals, And Humans
The Power Of Wetlands: Supporting Plants, Animals, And Humans Image

Why are we so interested in wetlands? Well, not only are we acknowledging wetlands because February 2nd is World Wetlands Day, but they also have a very important relationship to stormwater. 


So firstly, what on earth is a wetland actually? A wetland is an area of land that is either covered with or saturated by water for the whole year or periods of time during the year. Plants in this habitat seem to magically grow out of the water, but in fact, the soil they are rooted in lies beneath that water—you just can’t see it. Additionally, wetlands are a crucial keystone in our ecosystem. They often support high concentrations of animals, ranging from mammals, birds, fish, and invertebrates, and are vitally important as a source of nutrients, shelter, and as a sanctuary for these animals to spawn and raise their offspring. 


Wetlands: Nature’s Powerhouse

How do wetlands help our work here at the Watershed Protection Program? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that wetlands improve the quality of stormwater runoff because they naturally reduce and clean pollutants through the processes of:

  • Sedimentation
  • Absorption and retention
  • Biological degradation and transformation
  • Plant uptake

In addition, our neighbors at Friends of Ballona Wetlands describe even more benefits of wetlands, including:

  • Flood control for local communities by absorbing the excess water
  • Cleans water before it travels into the local groundwater supply
  • Refuge for migratory birds to rest, bathe, and recharge before continuing their journey
  • Purifies our air through the work of plant plankton that use carbon dioxide for the process of photosynthesis, which then goes onto releases clean oxygen


Where are LA’s Wetlands?

Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, which Friends of Ballona Wetlands help take excellent care of, is nearby in Playa Del Rey. Another wetland in the City of Los Angeles is South Los Angeles Wetlands Park, which opened in 2012. Proposition-O funded this stormwater improvement project that transformed a former bus and rail yard into the nine-acre wetland and park we see today! This wetland cleans the water from urban runoff before sending it to the Los Angeles River, which then flows into the ocean. The South Los Angeles Wetlands Park also provides a green space amongst an area of warehouses and homes. 

Augustus F. Hawkins Nature Park is the other wetland in our city. This 8.5-acre piece of land was previously a pipe storage yard. It saw new life in 2000 by being converted to a calm green space that boasts a wetland, native flora, and a small museum with nature exhibits. 


Helping Our Wetlands Prevent Stormwater Pollution: Actions You Can Take

Even though we have two wonderful wetlands that do important work to clean LA’s urban runoff, we have fewer wetlands compared to other areas in California. So, LA residents must take additional actions to clean our water. Here’s how you can help:

  • Never dump anything down your storm drain
  • Pick up litter
  • Take your car to a commercial car wash instead of washing it on your driveway or street 
  • Reduce your usage of pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides 
  • Replace lawn areas with native and drought-tolerant plants
  • Minimize impervious surfaces at your home and increase the amount of vegetation 
  • Always pick up after your dog


Do you have a newfound love for wetlands? Want to talk about ways you can help because of LA’s lack of wetlands? We’re happy to speak with you and answer any questions or comments! Email us at lastormwater@lacity.org.



*Photo Credit: Jose Lozano, LA Sanitation

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