Wetlands are unique transition zones between land and water, and are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world. The three most important functions of prairie wetlands are waterfowl habitat, nutrient removal and flood control, as Jackie referenced in her blog post last week (A Wetlands Walk with Charlie).
First things first, let’s talk about habitat. Wetlands here in Iowa provide habitat to an abundance of creatures, including mammals, insects, reptiles, and amphibians, as well as countless microorganisms unseen by the bare eye. However, some of the most beautiful (and iconic) creatures found in wetlands are the migratory birds!
Did you know? 46% of threatened and endangered species in the US depend on wetlands for their survival.
The epic migratory journey that these birds make twice each year is aided by flyways — routes that have historically provided migrating birds with food and water along the way, as well as suitable habitat and resting places. Each season, more than 100 million North American birds use a flyway to migrate – that’s 50% of all migratory birds.
The importance of Iowa’s wetlands cannot be overstated, as our state straddles two of the major North American migratory bird flyways: the Mississippi River Flyway and the Central Plains Flyway.
Much like gas stations, restaurants, and hotels that we utilize when traveling on the highway, wetlands are a one-stop-shop for migratory birds traveling along the flyways. Wetlands provide critical resting stops – an opportunity to refuel, rest and recharge – as well as feeding and nesting grounds.
Last school year, we were visiting the 4th and 5th grade classes at Madison Elementary in Cedar Rapids, and describing the importance of wetlands along with the highway/flyway comparison. One student raised his hand, brimming with much enthusiasm, and proclaimed, “Hey! It’s like that song ‘Life is a Flyway’ (referencing ‘Life is a Highway’).” We were not about to let such a great idea pass us by, and so right then and there the video concept was born.
In celebration of International Migratory Bird Day (Saturday, May 14) as well as American Wetlands Month, here’s a sneak preview of our newest Water Rocks! music video titled Life is a Flyway, slated for full release this fall!