Wetlands Are Vital to Plants, Wildlife, and People
An Open Spaces Blog

May is American Wetlands Month, yet every day is a great time to celebrate these diverse habitats. Wetlands support birds, fishes, amphibians, plants, and more. Discover the importance of wetlands to plants, wildlife, and people around the globe.

More than one-third of America’s threatened and endangered species live only in wetlands.

Their importance is immeasurable. Below are five things you need to know about these watery wonders!

A flock of shorebirds feeds during fall migration at Huron Wetland Management District in South Dakota. Photo by Sandra Uecker/USFWS

1. Wetlands help clean our drinking water!

The groundwater that people depend on for drinking and other uses is cleaned and purified by wetlands like bogs, marshes, and swamps. When water enters a wetland, it slows down, allowing heavy sediments to drop to the wetland floor and enhance the water quality running into nearby lakes and rivers.

Aerial view of Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Photo by Keith Ramos/USFWS

2. Wetlands provide shelter from the storm.

 Not only do they purify waters, but wetlands also help mitigate damage from powerful storms and floods. Wetlands function as natural sponges that trap and slowly release surface water, rain, snowmelt, groundwater and flood waters. They serve as buffers during powerful storm events, lessening damage to structures and homes.

Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. Photo by Wayne Forester (sharetheexperience.org)

3. The United States has more than 40 Wetlands of International Importance

These sites have received recognition from the international community for their unique biology, incredible diversity and the important habitat they provide for wildlife that migrate from around the world. More than 20 of these are on national wildlife refuges.

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by David Tally (sharetheexperience.org).

4. Wetlands host a variety of habitats and support a diversity of life including many threatened and endangered species

The Chinook salmon, American crocodile, and Hawaiian stilt (or aeʻo), all call wetlands home. Wetlands are particularly important to many migratory bird species that rely on them for a safe resting place – and also for food, nesting, and breeding habitat.

Young Chinook salmon can be recognized by the patterns of dots and bars on their backs and sides. Photo by Roger Tabor/USFWS

5. Wetlands are vital to fish and the angler community!

Wetlands provide important nutrients and habitat for many kinds of aquatic plants and wildlife and help ensure fish populations are healthy. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), both commercial and recreational fishing contributes over $115 billion to the U.S. economy every year.

It wasn’t that long ago that wetlands were viewed as wastelands. We now know wetlands are productive and valuable resources worthy of protection and restoration. Visit our National Wetlands Inventory for information about status and trends of our nation’s wetlands.

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