All animals need water to survive and water sources are essential for allowing wildlife to thrive! Amphibians use water as shelter and for breeding grounds, whereas butterflies find valuable minerals and salts in water. Birds also use water to bathe themselves and to remove parasites. Wildlife also requires water to fulfil vital functions. These include transportation, lubrication, nutrient uptake, reproduction, removing wastes, health and temperature regulation.
Animals’ body temperature needs to remain within a specific range and therefore water helps prevent overheating. Heated water is released through pores in the form of sweat. This needs to be replenished to avoid the animal experiencing dehydration.
Water brings an animal’s pH closer to a neutral value. Therefore, this lessens the risk of unhealthy chemical reactions in the animal’s body.
Hydrolysis involves the breakdown of ATP; a molecule that forms when sugar metabolises in the digestive tract. This is transferred to all cells in the body. The introduction of water causes a breaking down of bonds, releasing energy that powers the animal’s body.
Water forms most of the mucus lining on the animal’s stomach; this protects it from corrosive acid, helping with digestion. Saliva breaks down food in the animal’s mouth, and this mostly consists of water.
In the animal skeleton, there is a protective layer of cartilage between bones. This provides lubrication and prevents wear on bones. Cartilage can be worn down and restrict the motion of joints if the animal doesn’t get enough water.
Plants also rely on water to grow and stay alive; they use it directly when capturing light energy from the sun and transform this into energy. Animals and humans rely on plants for survival; therefore, the water cycle also relies on plants filtering water and releasing it back into the atmosphere.
Water can also enhance vegetative cover and create wildlife habitat, providing animals with places to live and thrive in. Many animals obtain water for their diet; desert animals metabolise water from eating nuts and seeds, adapting to survive in hot conditions. Water is a preferred habitat for many animals that are drawn to lakes, streams and wetlands for survival. It provides a place for them to breed and develop in safety. Freshwater and wetlands are a vital part of the natural world. Fish and wildlife in freshwater and saltwater rely on water and healthy water conditions to live and develop. Large streams and rivers also provide fly routes for migrating waterfowl and birds.
Furthermore, oceans provide millions of marine animals with a place to live and thrive. However, our oceans have a large effect on our global climate. Rising ocean temperatures and changing ocean chemistry, as well as human pollution, affects marine ecosystems. There are problems with climate change and drought, causing issues for wildlife and natural vegetation. Pollutants have also caused damage to animals’ habitats, such as streams and ponds, harming sensitive plant and animal life.
How You Can Help
You should provide a water source in your garden, ensuring that this is shallow with gradual and rough-textured edges. During hot weather, have plenty of water accessible for animals and for birds to drink and bathe in. Butterflies, bees, hedgehogs, frogs, toads, newts and badgers all need water to live.
Wildlife needs extra help to survive during cold winter months but also in hot summer weather. Water is essential for birds during heatwaves. The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) explains “having convenient supplies of clean water can make a huge difference to the survival of local wild species such as birds, butterflies and small mammals, during times of extreme heat and drought.” Wildlife can also struggle with heat stress, especially when they become overheated and dehydrated, similar to how humans experience dehydration. Animals struggling with heat stress have symptoms such as confusion, a loss of balance and collapsing. If you see any of these, you should contact animal services or veterinarians.
Creating Water Spaces
During long periods of dry weather, fresh drinking water is harder for birds to find. Make sure to provide lots of water sources in your garden. Bathing is important for birds to remove dirt and grit and keep their feathers in good condition. You can also create a bird bath to allow birds to bathe and drink. Place these at different heights and different locations in your garden. Birds can feel vulnerable when approaching water sources out in the open. Therefore, place water for near a shrub or tree so they can approach from a place of safety. You could also place a bath at ground level for hedgehogs and other mammals. Another idea is to use a shallow bath near a flower bed for bees and butterflies.
You could also install a pond to attract more wildlife to your garden, creating a vibrant home for diverse wildlife. Ponds are also very important habitats for wildlife, especially if they’re well designed and maintained. A pond can be very effective and a haven for plants, birds and animals, with algae and plants. It provides essential drinking and bathing water for birds and mammals and encourages a diversity of wildlife.
There are many ways that we can protect our waterways and develop water management. These can benefit wildlife, their habitats and ourselves, preventing pollution and providing cleaner water. We need to safeguard wildlife and their homes from climate change and facilitate the adaptation of species and habitats.