The Many Faces of Wetlands
Wetlands come in all shapes and sizes, and their appearance can vary dramatically depending on where you live and what the weather is like in your area. Here are some classic wetland examples to help you know what to look for:
Swamps are wetlands that are found in the floodplains of rivers or streams, typically dominated by trees or shrubs. These areas are a vital source of flood protection for neighboring communities. Classic examples are Great Dismal Swamp and Okefenokee Swamp.
As their name might suggest, tidal marshes are found on the coasts, where they serve as habitat to a select array of plant and animal life that can tolerate changes in salinity brought on by the tides. Tidal marshes improve the water quality of runoff from the coast, protecting off-shore communities like coral reefs. You can spot these marshes in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge or Willapa National Wildlife Refuge.
Bogs are unique in that all of their water comes from precipitation, which, in combination with the acid-forming peat mosses that form their bottom, makes for a specialized habitat that can accommodate certain rare and endangered plants and animals. Bogs also serve important roles in flood-mitigation, protecting human communities nearby. Try to find a bog in Seney National Wildlife Refuge or Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge.
Images courtesy of the U.S. EPA
Learn fun facts about how wetlands work for us!
- Wetlands can make communities safer, lower our water bills and provide important food sources for wildlife and humans alike! Check out the infographic below for more cool facts.
- Wetlands can help regulate the climate! Carbon dioxide is a gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect—it is helping to make the planet warm faster than it has historically, which can pose a threat to the health of people, plants and animals. One of the ways carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere is when organic material (anything that used to be alive) rots, or decomposes. In many types of wetlands, organic material (like dead leaves or plants) accumulates in the waters of the wetlands so quickly it that it can’t decompose—the chemical conditions won’t allow it. Since this organic matter trapped in wetlands is prevented from decomposing, it doesn’t give off carbon dioxide that might contribute to climate change. Instead, the carbon is contained in the muds of the wetlands where it can remain for thousands of years, making wetlands climate regulators!
- Spending time recreating in nature, including wetlands, can make you healthier! Of course, exercise is healthy almost anywhere you do it, but spending time hiking, biking or boating in green areas like wetlands has been shown to lower the body’s levels of the stress hormone cortisol. No one likes to be stressed, and too much stress can put you at greater risk for illness. Take a step towards better health with some wetland recreation!