Impact of wetlands in public gardens for conservation messaging
University of Delaware
Wetlands have been neglected and threatened, and have dwindled to only a half of their original size in the United States. Today, the loss and degradation of wetland ecosystems is still continuing rapidly. Lack of connections among wetland science, public awareness, and government regulations contribute to complex wetland issues. Public gardens have extraordinary potential to strengthen the connection between people and nature. They can play a significant role in moving the trend away from destroying wetlands and wildlife species through aesthetic displays, educational programs and conveying conservation messages. Although wetland ecosystems have great value, few studies have demonstrated the impacts of wetlands in public gardens. The objective of this study was to examine how wetlands in public gardens are used differently according to their respective missions, especially for aesthetics, education, and conservation. In particular, this study emphasized the differences in wetland utilization between public gardens with or without conservation missions. A survey was sent to 69 public gardens in North America representing 28 states and 51 completed the survey. The survey results were utilized to analyze overall wetlands practices in public gardens, as well as to verify the differences between conservation mission-based institutions and those that are non-conservation mission-based. From those, three institutions were chosen for case studies to focus on more specific aspects. The survey and case study data indicated significant differences between both groups in terms of perception of wetland conservation, collaborations, and aesthetic viewpoint of biodiversity. Wetlands are sufficiently complex that public gardens need to explore the best ways to connect them with their missions. Results from this study can be used by public gardens to manage or create their wetlands sustainably, as well from aesthetic and educational perspectives.