Why Are Wetlands Important

Wetlands are highly productive and biologically diverse systems. They were once regarded as wastelands, which were often drained, filled, or used as dumping grounds. Today, we know that wetlands are important for the environment and the public.

Wetlands act as natural water purifiers, filtering sediment and absorbing many pollutants in surface waters. Coastal wetlands help to soften the force of major storms. Wetlands along rivers and streams absorb energy and store water during storms, which reduces flooding. The slow release of this stored water over time can help keep streams flowing during droughts.

Wetlands provide habitat for many species of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Wildlife like deer, elk and bears use wetlands for food and shelter. Wetlands are necessary for many migratory bird species. Freshwater and marine life including trout, striped bass, crab, and shrimp rely on wetlands for food, cover, spawning, and nursery grounds.

About one-third of all plants and animals listed as threatened or endangered species in the United States depend on wetlands for their survival. Nearly 7000 plant species live in U.S. wetlands, many of which can only survive in these wet environments.

Some wetland types are among the most productive ecosystems on earth. A stand of cordgrass in a salt marsh can produce more plant material and store more energy per acre than any agricultural crop except cultivated sugar cane. Nutrients and plant material flushed from wetland systems during storms provide essential food for plants, fish, and wildlife in downstream ecosystems.

Many wetlands contain a diversity of plants, animals and water features that provide beautiful places for sightseeing, hiking, fishing, hunting, and bird watching.

Some wetlands provide clean, plentiful water supplies.

Ecological, cultural, and historic resources are plentiful in our nation's wetlands. They provide countless opportunities for environmental education and public awareness programs.

Source: Why Are Wetlands Important
National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Public Domain

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