American Wetlands Month
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Fish and Wildlife Habitat

  A leopard frog (Rana pipiens) find habitat in a wetland restored through the Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program in Eastern Maryland. Credit: Leopoldo Miranda/USFWS
  A leopard frog (Rana pipiens) finds habitat in a wetland restored through the Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program in Eastern Maryland. Credit: Leopoldo Miranda/USFWS

More than one-third of the United States’ threatened and endangered species live only in wetlands, and nearly half use wetlands at some point in their lives. Many other animals and plants depend on wetlands for survival. Estuarine and marine fish and shellfish, various birds, and certain mammals must have coastal wetlands to survive.

Most commercial and game fish breed and raise their young in coastal marshes and estuaries. Menhaden, flounder, sea trout, spot, croaker and striped bass are among the more familiar fish that depend on coastal wetlands. Shrimp, oysters, clams and blue and Dungeness crabs likewise need these wetlands for food, shelter and breeding grounds.

For many animals and plants, like wood ducks, muskrat, cattails and swamp rose, inland wetlands are the only places they can live. Beaver may actually create their own wetlands. For others, such as striped bass, peregrine falcon, otter, black bear, raccoon and deer, wetlands provide important food, water or shelter. Many of the U.S. breeding bird populations - including ducks, geese, woodpeckers, hawks, wading birds and many songbirds - feed, nest and raise their young in wetlands.

American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos), one of the largest birds in North America, are highly dependent upon lakes, wetlands and coastal estuaries throughout their life cycles. Credit: Leopoldo Miranda/USFWS
 
American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos), one of the largest birds in North America, are highly dependent upon lakes, wetlands and coastal estuaries throughout their life cycles. Credit: Leopoldo Miranda/USFWS  

Migratory waterfowl use coastal and inland wetlands as resting, feeding, breeding, or nesting grounds for at least part of the year. Indeed, an international agreement to protect wetlands of international importance was developed because some species of migratory birds are completely dependent on certain wetlands and would become extinct if those wetlands were destroyed.*

Did You Know?

Wetlands are valuable resources. They protect against flooding, help maintain water quality and provide habitat to wildlife.

Up to one-half of North American bird species nest or feed in wetlands.

Nearly half of the threatened and endangered species need wetlands for their survival.

Wetlands generate billions of dollars annually through popular activities, such as hunting, fishing, bird watching and photographing wildlife.

Although wetlands cover only about 5% of the land surface in the lower 48 states, they are home to 31% of plant species.

 

 

*Reference: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1995b. America’s wetlands: Our vital link between land and water. Office of Water, Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds. EPA843-K-95-001.

Last updated: May 6, 2009
National Wetlands Inventory
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