The Lowdown on Wetlands
Wetlands are found along rivers, lakes, and in depressions. In fact, wetlands are associated with most lowland areas. Water in wetlands moves very slowly. Some wetlands are temporary and seasonal. They occur for a few weeks at a time and then disappear until the next time they are filled with water. Other wetlands are always under water.
Soaking It Up
Wetlands are an important part of the environment. They help control flooding by soaking up water during storms. Wetlands also act as natural filters for water pollutants, and they trap sediment that can clog rivers, streams, and lakes. In fact, wetlands are often compared to kidneys because of their ability to clean up the water supply!
Wetlands are often used as resting places for migrating birds. Other animals, like fish and crabs, lay their eggs in wetlands. Young fish and crabs spend their early life in wetlands, because there is plenty of cover where they can hide from predators. When they grow older, they move out to more open waters.
About half of the wetlands that were in the United States two centuries ago are now gone. Most were drained and used for farmland or filled in so roads and towns could be built on them. This development has put a strain on species that depend on wetlands for survival. It is estimated that close to 35 percent of the animals and plants on the U.S. endangered or threatened species list depend on wetlands for at least part of their life cycle.
Variety is the Spice of Life
Not all wetlands are the same. They all have unique characteristics!