Nature’s Sponge

Floodplain Wetlands in Action

Flooding along Unadilla River in April, 2022. ©The Wetland Trust, Inc.

In early April high precipitation levels caused flooding on the Unadilla River, along the border of Chenango and Otsego counties. The Wetland Trust (TWT) has seen flooding on its Unadilla Valley Preserve, a 50-acre floodplain wetland in the heart of the Upper Susquehanna watershed. TWT wetland biologist, Michelle Herman, was able to capture aerial photographs of the event.

One of the important functions of floodplain wetlands like the Unadilla Valley Preserve is to store and then slowly release water from high-precipitation events. This can help lessen the severity of flood impacts on natural systems and humans alike. Wetlands also filter and trap sediments that get stirred up during flooding and might otherwise get swept into waterways and put additional stress on water treatment systems. 

As wetland ecologist and TWT Board member, Scott Angus, put it, “These [photos] are intense, and really show the importance of wetlands with regard to flood control. The Preserve creates such an excellent ‘sponge’ to collect the floodwaters away from human infrastructure.”

 Mere days after the flood Herman collected another aerial, showing the receded river and an inundated wetland already bouncing back with fresh vegetation. These hardy systems are critical to maintaining healthy waterways and protecting our communities from hazardous floods.