What’s the use of wetlands?

The black bog had him by the feet; the sucking of the ground drew on him, like the thirsty lips of death. […] he tossed his arms to heaven, and they were black to the elbow, and the glare of his eyes was ghastly. […] Scarcely could I turn away, while, joint by joint, he sank from sight.

Lorna Doone, R.D. Blackmore

A view over “Doone Valley”

What do you think of when you think about wetlands: ponds, lakes, streams, rivers? Humankind needs water to drink, irrigate crops, and clean ourselves.  However, our view of water tends to focus on the negatives: drowning, dirt, disease, and decay.  Words like “bogged-down” and “swamped” have entered everyday use. In some ways Carver Doone’s plight represents the fears that we have about wetlands. But I want to make the case that these wetlands are misunderstood heroes of the natural world.
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A trip to Pink Lake, Gatineau Park

Lac Pink and a sweaty Englishman

A few weeks ago I cycled up into Gatineau Park, just outside of Ottawa in Quebec.  It’s nice having wilderness this close to the city, even if I don’t use it enough!  My target was Pink Lake, about 8km inside the park boundary and that made for a 30km round trip.  It’s hard work getting there (the lookout in the photo is about 120m or 400 feet above when I started) but good fun free-wheeling most of the way home.  I didn’t know anything about the lake (there are a lot of them around and I assumed it was just like the others).  However, when I saw the interpretation signs at the site I noticed it was “meromictic”.  What this means is that the lake waters never entirely mix and it produces a fairly special environment for life.  The signs gave some information about the biological implications which I thought I would share.

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