Delaware continues to lose wetlands faster than they can be created or restored, according to a report highlighted at a conference in Dover.
About ten-percent of Delaware’s 320,000 acres of wetlands vanished over a period of about 15 years, with much of the loss attributed to man-made causes. “Delaware Wetlands: Status and Changes” also documents the lost benefits of having fewer acres of wetlands, which help to purify the water, provide natural habitat for fish and wildlife, and provide protection from coastal storms and some types of flooding.
“Wetlands are critically important to public health and safety of all Delawareans,” Delaware Natural Resources Secretary Collin O’Mara said. “We must work together to protect these valuable resources that help provide clean water, reduce flooding and storm damage, and provide important fishery and wildlife habitat.”
“We’re not only losing wetlands and their services in entirety due to direct impacts, but we are also finding diminished wetland function due to secondary impacts,” DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship Environmental Scientist Mark Biddle said. “Additionally, we are in the beginning stages of evaluating economic and societal costs of losing wetland functions.”
O’Mara added that he was confident the state could protect wetlands for the benefit of current and future generations through what he called “a combination of incentive programs, market-based mechanisms, and appropriate regulatory requirements.”