Why marshes are so important?
Marshes are a type of wetland and an important ecosystem for our land and water. They are usually found in the edges of rivers and lakes, where cattails, bulrushes and grasses grow along with some submerged vegetation
In Manitoba, wetlands provide numerous environmental benefits. They can reduce erosion,
improve flood control, recharge of groundwater, and sequestrate of nutrients and reduce toxic materials in water. They are also fundamental habitat for many birds, fish, and waterfowl. And they can support recreational and commercial activities such as fishing, trapping, hunting, harvesting grasses and wild rice.
For Indigenous Nations, marshlands represent important pieces of their history and culture, as they use the water and land for traditional practices, including sacred medicine and economic, recreational and spiritual activities that balance their relationship with the environment. First Nations utilize the wetlands in the way their traditional rights entail, including as a safe space for multi-generational knowledge exchange based on their cultural values.
Among them, the Netley-Libau marsh is considered the largest freshwater coastal wetland in North America, covering an area of approximately 22,000 hectares. It is situated south of Lake Winnipeg, where the Red River meets the Lake and it consists of a complex of shallow lakes, lagoons, and channels.
The Netley-Libau is a hemi-marsh, a type of wetland characterized by a mix of emergent vegetation and submersed plant life. A hemi-marsh must go through periods of drought and flooding to help keep the vegetation levels close to a ratio with equal areas of open water and emergent vegetation to maintain this ideal habitat. This combination creates an ideal habitat for a variety of aquatic dependent birds and amphibians. Migrating birds find this place ideal for stopping over and many brooding female birds find this a perfect place for raising young. In fact, Netley-Libau is considered an Important Bird Area. The marsh also provides spawning, nursery and feeding habitat for fish species from Lake Winnipeg and the Red River.
The Netley-Libau Marsh is thus a crucial ecological feature on Manitoba's landscape. It is vital to
maintaining water quality of surrounding waters, including Lake Winnipeg, as the vegetation acts as a filter to remove large quantities of harmful nutrients from the water while providing habitats for aquatic and wildlife species.