In just a few short months, The Preserve has developed from a construction zone to a functioning wet meadow with ponds, which serve as a home to ducks, birds, and frogs. In addition to the beauty of our newly reclaimed wetlands, this valuable asset to GA serves a multitude of scientific functions.
There are several benefits to reclaiming the wetlands that comprise the GA Preserve in the Wissahickon Creek floodplain, including improved flood control, increased water quality, and enhanced biodiversity. Vegetated wetlands act as a sponge during heavy rains; soil and deep-rooted wetland plants soak up water that falls on and flows through the ground while slowly releasing that water into the creek, mitigating flash flooding during and after heavy rain events. Constructing the ponds at decreasing elevations, closer to creek height with increasing proximity to the creek, also allows for more gradual release of retained water into the creek after a storm.
In addition to alleviating flooding, vegetated wetlands also filter the water that flows over and through it. When the runoff from roads and fields seeps into the wetlands, deep plant roots filter excess nutrients, excess sediment, and certain toxins from the soil, preventing this harmful runoff from reaching the creek.
Wetlands also promote increased biodiversity by providing a variety of habitats for many different plants, animals, fungi, and beneficial microbes. These habitats include land that might appear dry on the surface but contain saturated soils below, seasonal ponds that dry up in summer, and year-round ponds with varying depths. This variety of habitats serves as home to insects, amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals that attract ducks, bats, and birds.
An array of avian, aquatic, and terrestrial wildlife has already been spotted in The Preserve. Birds observed by the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association (WVWA) Bird-athon include a greater scaup or “bluebill”, barn swallows, tree swallows, least sandpipers, killdeers, and a happy mallard couple. The WVWA also noted that the greatest diversity of bird species for this event was seen at GA’s Preserve! Other wildlife spotted in the wetlands includes black snails, green frogs, and several small fish.