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Fresh water

Fresh water and ecosystems

Plants and animals that live on land must always find some way to get water in order to survive. Most land-living animals seek wetlands, lakes or streams of water to drink. Fresh water and wetlands also host a great amount of plant and animal species that are totally dependent on these ecosystems.

Birds, like the common crane, broad-billed sandpiper and hen harrier, breed in bogs consisting of many-coloured mosses. Calcium-rich swamps also have a lot of rare and spectacular plants like different orchids. Most land living molluscs and mussels live in fens, swamp forests and other wetlands. A great variety of insects (including stinging species like mosquitos and black flies, which aren’t always very pleasant to us humans) are of crucial importance to insect-eating birds and also grouse such as capercaillie, black grouse, and hazer hen.

Certain lakes with shallow wetlands are important breeding areas for wading birds, geese, wild ducks and other bird species. During spring and fall, they also serve as resting places for migrating birds and serve as an important source of food during their strenuous long flights.

International responsibility for fresh water

Small water bodies and wetlands could be the last resort for our endangered amphibians and in the streams, salmon and trout travel upstream to breed. The human need for fresh water is great. We consume so much water (beyond what we drink) for activities such as doing the dishes or laundry, showering, and watering lawns, that the Earth’s fresh water resource will not suffice in the long run if the population continues to increase. In Sweden we still have fresh water in abundance, which gives us an international responsibility for this resource that is already a commodity in short supply in other countries.

Despite the high importance of wetlands, humans have for centuries endeavoured to drain and reclaim the land. The reasons have originally been to get more land for farming in order to feed a growing population. Even more recently, vast areas have been reclaimed, for use as forest plantages.

Lilla Lule älv, Jokkmokk, Sverige

The cleaning facilities of nature

Wetlands that lie along the water’s course from small streams and lakes, via rivers, and into the oceans, can be called the cleaning facilities of nature. Wetlands function as a kind of ”biological filter” where toxic materials, nutrients, alkaline metals and organic material can gather and/or be transformed into harmless gas. In our agricultural landscapes, most wetlands have been drained and naturally-meandering watercourses are straightened so that only straight channels remain. In these straight channels, almost no cleansing takes place and polluted water is flushed directly into the ocean.

The Swedish national rivers are among the most valuable water streams in Europe

Most of the greater water streams are already used for hydroelectric power and their natural lines and water dynamics have been destroyed. The national rivers are unique because of their multitude of structures, such as waterfalls, flooded wetlands, strong river passages, meandering rivers, deltas and different water biotopes. The people living in the river valleys has since long taken advantage of the river’s nature resources and in a sustainable way been able to fish, hunt and cultivate in this environment. A fabulous multitude of animal species live within these ecosystems and WWF will never accept that the national rivers be destroyed.

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