A Return to Nature: Returning to the Wetland
For many years, the importance of wetland ecosystems was poorly understood, and many of the country’s wetlands were drained for agricultural use or urban development. As more research on the role wetlands play has been conducted, the many ways in which they support the global ecosystem have been unveiled. Most people are already familiar with the mental health benefits associated with spending time outside and how being active outdoors directly improves your physical health. However, not everyone is fully aware of how urban wetland outdoor spaces indirectly support humanity. What sets the Rosewood Nature Study Area apart from many other wetland restoration projects is that it is located in an urban and arid climate. In these conditions, water is a precious resource for not just humans but many plant and animal species. It also is an amazing opportunity for people like myself who are passionate about the outdoors and fighting climate change to learn modern restoration practices and work hands-on to make a difference.
Wetlands in particular are very good at carbon sequestration. In order to perform the regular nutrient cycling ecosystems need to survive in an environment inundated with water, microorganisms like bacteria and fungi store extra carbon in the mud and sediment that collects in the waterways, usually as methane gas. Current climate change predictions state that capturing and sequestering atmospheric carbon is imperative if we stand a chance at mitigating the effects of the global temperature increase. This is especially important in urban areas where carbon dioxide is often the most concentrated and produced in high quantities. It is predicted that the Rosewood Nature Study Area would be able to store around 160 tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide once restored. The Reno-Sparks communities, by being urban areas, are guaranteed to produce high amounts of carbon dioxide. Having a readily available carbon sink in the form of this wetland would greatly improve their ability to offset the amount of carbon output, in a passive and cost effective manner.
Furthermore, the Rosewood Wetland Nature Study Area can serve as a precious undeveloped habitat in a very urbanized area. For wetlands to operate efficiently and properly, they cannot just be a conglomerate of wetland plants. Birds, mammals, and aquatic creatures are all essential parts of the previously mentioned nutrient cycling in a wetland ecosystem. Therefore, in order for it to be fully functioning and sequestering carbon properly, the Rosewood Nature Study Area must provide a habitat for animals. Already, a large variety of birds, as well as coyotes and a few other mammal species, can be seen using the property, but the wetland is a long way away from having proper biodiversity. Having habitat for wetland wildlife doesn’t just support nutrient cycling, it is also essential for species conservation. As a result of human development, many amphibian and fish species found only in this region of the Sierra Nevadas have declined rapidly in the past few decades. Species such as the Northern leopard frog and Lahontan cutthroat trout are facing extinction, and it’s refuges like the Rosewood Nature Study Area that can make a difference.
In addition to providing permanent habitat for endemic species, the wetland also acts as a crucial stopping point for migratory bird species. These birds cannot travel their long journeys in one flight, and must stop to eat, rest, and rehydrate. Wetland habitats rich with water, food sources of all varieties, and undeveloped spaces to flock in are ideal resting places. In fact, several migratory species have been seen using the Rosewood Wetland as such a stopping place, and the hope is that as it develops, more will arrive.
Perhaps the most important impact the Rosewood Wetland can have on the Reno-Sparks communities is that it provides people with the opportunity to see this unique environment up close and at no cost. I can say with certainty that it has had an impact on myself. I have found it easy to forget when I wander deep enough into the wetland that I am surrounded by major roadways and neighborhoods. Instead, I feel surrounded by nature, wandering through a desert oasis with all the water and plant life around. My return to the wetland after my first term as an AmeriCorps service member here was heavily influenced by a desire to continue to restore the wetland so that members of my new community could see the beauty that I see everyday. I want people to appreciate all nature has to offer, and to care about these kinds of open spaces. That want of mine can only be fulfilled if I do the work needed to create or, in this case, restore these open spaces.
In my limited but professional experience, people only become more inquisitive about nature the more you show them, and as a result want to protect it more. Ultimately, that is the goal of the Rosewood Nature Study Area: to protect this wetland through introducing people to a unique piece of nature so it can continue to provide us with its services for years to come. From helping reduce carbon footprints, to supporting wildlife conservation, and encouraging people to explore outside more, the Rosewood Nature Study Area will always have an important place in the Reno and Sparks communities, and in my heart.
Efforts to restore this wetland would not be possible without the support from community members like you. A donation ensures our trails continue to be built, volunteering helps us plant more native species, and visiting the property with your family spreads education to our community on the importance of this precious resource. Through our Acres of Innovation Capital Campaign, we will plant our roots at Rosewood and continue to build a place for our community to stay connected with nature. Learn more about the Rosewood Nature Study Area restoration efforts at our Project Overview page.