What are Wetlands?

Wetlands encompass many different habitats including ponds, marshes, swamps, and peatlands. They are areas where land and water meet and are wet for an ecologically significant part of the year. Wetlands may be temporally flooded each day as with tidal marshes, or be filled seasonally with water from melting snow. Plants and animals present in wetlands are from land and water habitats making them highly productive environments. Wetlands function as ecotones, transitions between different habitats, and have characteristics of both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

Wetlands are found along the shorelines of oceans, lakes, rivers and in local depressions. The water in natural wetlands derives from tidal flows, lakes, flooding rivers, or connections to groundwater. The water table in wetlands is at or near the surface, and the land is often covered with shallow water.

Wetlands have often been described as the kidneys of the landscape because of the role they play in water and chemical cycles. Wetlands filter out sediment and pollution from the surrounding environment so that the water they discharge is cleaner that which entered the wetland. In this manner, wetlands act as both a sink and source, storing and passing on vital resources to their local environment.