Teens restore wetlands
July is Teen month at at our summer camp nestled on a remote property in the Eddy mountains of northern California. And as part of each summer camp experience, teens discover the importance of healthy wetlands. We developed this programs over the years due to damage caused by illegal off-road vehicles use.
With hands-on involvement teens are empowered by learning that they can make a difference through positive action. ~Mark Wienert
Off road vehicles damage wetlands
Over the years off-roaders in their 4×4’s, motorcycles, and all-terrain vehicles (ATVS). Have negatively affected the wetland at our summer camp. The damage they have causes is huge and very difficult to repair.
When ATVs drive through these water soaked wetlands they create deep and rutted trenches.
The surface water then drains into these trenches, lowering the water table and causing the wetland to dry out. The difference in elevation from the wetland surface to the bottom of the trench also leads to heavy soil erosion and gully formation.
The importance of Bogs, Fens, and Wetlands to the Environment
For millenniums, wetlands have been an integral part of a healthy and robust ecosystem, which supports thousands of diverse animal and plant species. Bogs and fens are formed by the up-welling of underground springs forming thick carpets of roots with peat type soils that act as natural filtering systems slowing flow from snow runoff each spring and holding and distributing moisture and sediment through a network of plant and roots helpful to overall water quality.
Wet meadows also help to maintain water temperature important to fish and other aquatic animals while providing healthy habitat for a diverse variety of plant and animal species that depend on these systems for their survival.
A few of these animal and plant species are the California Black Bear, Pacific Fisher, and the carnivores Darlingtonia californicum, also known as cobra plant, that grow in boggy serpentine soils of the Klamath mountains of northern California.
Wetland restoration is accomplished over time by mimicking nature’s healing processes. An example of this technique that is applied in restoring a rutted track made by an off-road vehicle is to partially fill a rut with living blocks of wetland plant roots, intact in their soil, which is made up of native forbs, grasses, soil, sediment, and roots.
Staggering the blocks along the rutted track, and maintaining a very low profile of vegetation in the trench, allows the flow of water to gently spill over the top of the blocks, through the leaves and forbs, and catch fine, suspended sediment and other particulates on top of, and in the eddy created behind, the block.
Over time, plant roots make their way into the newly deposited sediment and support the wetland by slowing the flow of run-off in the ruts. As these roots multiply, grass density and height increase creating more roughness that can trap more fines, leaves, and particulates. As organic and inorganic matter accumulates, the grasses grow up through this layer, eventually raising the level of the rut thus restoring the wet meadow and protecting the wetland from premature drying.
Lifesong Wilderness Adventures conservation project
offers teens an opportunity to experience, first-hand, applied skills that can reverse the loss of a wetland habitat while earning community service credits. The best education comes through doing. We are proud of our teens and the great work they do at camp.
Register your son or daughter in one of Lifesong Wilderness Adventures Teen Adventure courses this summer to continue the work. Education means making a difference, and making a difference is fun and worthwhile!