Climate Change Has Far-Reaching Impact on Wetlands

By Sonal Tulsyani
Staff Writer

“It’s not just the rainforests that are affected by climate change, it’s also the wetlands,” Weinstein said.

The focus of the Sept. 26 biology seminar was wetland ecology and ecological restoration. Dr. Marion McClary introduced the speaker Dr. Michael P. Weinstein, who specializes in ecological research at the New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium.

The seminar started off with Dr. Weinstein  introducing  the audience to everything the wetlands has to offer including fish, shellfish, waterfowl, muskrats, fur-bearing animals, and water. All of the benefits to having wetlands make it significant to restore and preserve them.

“Wetlands are important biologically,” Weinstein said. The biochemical cycles that take place in them affect organisms of various shapes and sizes. The four biochemical cycles are water, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen. On a larger scale, the oxygen cycle affects all plants and animals that inhabit the wetlands. On a smaller scale, the nitrogen cycle affects bacteria.

When bacteria undergoes nitrogen fixation, it affects the plant’s ability to grow. The carbon cycle affects the plant’s intake of carbon dioxide and allows the plant cells to undergo photosynthesis in the first place. The bacteria utilize the help of plants to undergo photosynthesis by receiving glucose, according to Marion McClary Jr. a biology professor at FDU.

Basically, the bacteria fix nitrogen to help plants grow. Thus, the carbon cycle allows plants to undergo photosynthesis to produce food for itself, oxygen for the animals and glucose so that the bacteria can undergo nitrogen fixation. The glucose is also consumed by animals to produce energy, according to McClary.

The last biochemical cycle is the water cycle. No organism can survive without water and for some organisms, it is their habitat. Water not only plays a role for organisms, but also in abiotic ecological factors. Since it plays such a major role in the weather, anything that affects the water affects everything living and nonliving.

That means that when water gets polluted, the polluted portion doesn’t go away easily. When the plants are fed unclean water and the fish are swimming in unclean water, their health can be impacted to the point where the dirty water kills them. While there are some organisms that filter water, according to McClary, there aren’t nearly enough to compete with the staggering amount of highly toxic pollution that humans bring to the water. The water cycle also affects the other three cycles because in plants, water is removed to form glucose.

If that isn’t enough to scare the general public into making a change to better the environment,“this country has lost 50 percent of its wetlands since colonial times,” Weinstein said.

While recycling paper and plastics is a good start, the problem is a little more complicated than that.

The ability to manage and predict restoration trajectories  complicated by the fact that ecosystems exhibit behavioral surprises and non-linearities, according to Weinstein. This means that some of the difficulties that may arise include measuring the effect that restoration efforts have on the wetlands. As a result, efforts that people make to help the environment could have more — or less — of the positive impact than was anticipated.

Environmental changes affect so many living and nonliving organisms in the wetlands, and that is just one biome.