How are Intertidal Wetlands affected by natural and human intervention?

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belarafon | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Intertidal Wetlands are different from traditional wetlands; while traditional wetlands are simply areas where the ground is over-saturated with water, intertidal wetlands are areas bordering lakes and oceans where the land is submerged during high tide and open during low tide. The land bordering bodies of water is considered its own ecosystem, since there are plants and animals that thrive in the constantly changing environment.

The two types of intertidal wetland are Mudflats and Salt Marshes, each of which has its own unique ecosystem. Mudflats are on lakes and rivers, and are important habitats for migratory birds. Salt Marshes are on oceans, and plants and animals there must have a high tolerance for salt. Both types are integral to local wildlife, as there are several plants and animals that only live in that single, very specific environment.

Both natural and human intervention cause damage or change to intertidal wetlands. Humans pollute lakes, which can kill the more sensitive organisms -- all intertidal species are fragile outside their comfort zone. Development of housing and boating facilities also intrude on plant life, and human activity can drive nomadic animals away so they cannot continue to spread seeds or keep parasitic prey at low levels. Additionally, if sea levels continue to rise (about 1.7mm per year) the zones for life will change as the salinity or saturation of zones rises.

Natural changes to intertidal wetlands include the encroach of over-powerful plants or animals; a fast-growing plant can push out other plants that exist in equilibrium, while the introduction of an aggressive predator can kill off or drive away other species. Natural disasters like hurricanes or tsunamis can strip nutrient-rich soil or destroy habitation so migratory birds do not return. Also, if the salinity, acidity, or chemical composition of the water changes due to acid rains or new fresh water flowing from glaciers, fragile animals and plants might fail to adapt before dying off.