Marsh Habitat

Southern Tree Frog

A marsh, also called a "wetland," is one of our most important habitats. Marshes probably support more life than any other type of habitat. They are also essential to keeping our environment clean.

Wetlands have many important functions that benefit people and wildlife.

  • Provide habitat for a wide variety and number of wildlife and plants.
  • Filter, clean and store water - in other words, acting like kidneys for other ecosystems!
  • Collect and hold flood waters.
  • Absorb wind and tidal forces.
  • Provide places of beauty and many recreational activities

Wetlands also act like sponges by holding flood waters and keeping rivers at normal levels. Wetlands filter and purify water as it flows through the wetland system. Plants found in wetlands help control water erosion.

The best known characteristic of a wetland, water levels change constantly in a marsh. One or more sources of water feeds a marsh, usually a river or several smaller streams. As water comes into the marsh it settles into the soil and is later absorbed by plants. While most of the marsh remains fairly shallow, it holds some water year round.  

Plants are one of the most important parts of a wetland. Aquatic plants specialize in living in a wet environment, and a marsh is full of these. Plenty of other non-aquatic plants grow in a marsh as well, since a marsh is really a "transition", or middle-ground between a water habitat and a land habitat. Aquatic plants found in a marsh include duckweeds, lilypads, cattails, bulrushes, reeds, pondweeds, and arrowheads. Water-loving shrubs and trees include willows, slash pine, sugarberry, sabal palm, buttonbush, and saw palmetto. You only need to find a dry spot to see the usual grasses, wildflowers, and trees found in other habitats.

Most of the soil in a marsh is wet for the majority of the year, making it mud. This moist soil is great for certain types of plants and animals.

Any animal that likes a wet environment is likely to be found in a marsh. This includes many species of frogs, toads, turtles, snakes, mammals, birds and insects. Some of these animals are only found in a marsh. Some birds that love a marsh environment include wading birds, such as Great Blue Herons; waterfowl, and fishing birds, like Belted Kingfishers and Osprey. Common insects include dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies, mosquitoes, grasshoppers, and diving beetles. Some mammals, like beaver and river otter, may live in a marsh full-time; while others, such as fox, deer, and raccoons, visit frequently.