Wetland Functions

How wetlands function with other Earth systems such as the atmosphere, hydrology, and as habitat for wildlife and humans

Learning Objectives:

Consider the value of wetlands to societies

Explore personal values in wetlands

Benefits to society for different wetlands are listed here. Click on more at the end of each section to learn how these benefits come about. There is a special note here about underwater grasses.

Special Note: While underwater grass beds are considered marine habitat, they can be looked at as extensions of wetlands into the water. Under water sea beds, vital for marine life, depend on clear water for sunlight penetration to their leaves. A stable nutrient load, and undisturbed soil to grow in is also needed. Coastal wetlands filter water coming off the land to these grass beds and help reduce their loss.

Salt Water Marshes: hold and regulate temperature of soil, trap sediments, slow flooding and erosion, feed detritus to ocean, carbon sequestering, oxygen during photosynthesis, salt tolerant, hay, seeds for wildlife and art, grasses for art and textiles, scenic and tourism value, wave breaker, bird nesting sites, DNA, noise abatement More

Mangrove swamps: hold and regulate temperature of soil, trap sediments, slow flooding, and erosion, salt tolerant, seeds for wildlife and art, detritus to ocean, carbon sequestering, oxygen during photosynthesis, wildlife nesting habitat, fin fish and shell fish nursery among roots, fishing platform for humans, wood for humans, scenic and tourism value, wave breaker, DNA, noise abatement, pharmaceuticals More

Fresh water tidal or riparian wetlands: hold soil, trap chemicals and sediment, produce detritus, seeds, wood and grasses used by humans and wildlife, flowers, bird habitat, fur bearing mammals, reptile skins, oxygen in photosynthesis, nitrogen fixing, sulfur cycle, flood control, fish, water temperature regulation, noise abatement, scenic value, recreation, DNA, enzymes for industry and pharmaceuticals, food crops, fish, amphibians, tourism More

Inland (lake edge, fens, bogs, meadow, prairie, playa) freshwater wetlands: trap chemicals and sediment, nitrogen and sulfur cycles, carbon dioxide sequestering, wildlife, water temperature and chemistry regulation, drought and flood protection, wood, grasses, fur bearing mammals, amphibians and reptiles, scenic value, noise abatement More

Wetlands are important for fish, filtering water, flood control, economics, recreation.

In the past wetlands were drained for development. Today they are threatened by pollution and climate change that is changing their hydrology, either flooding them or drying them up. National parks are one place where wetlands are protected from development.


Last updated: April 10, 2015

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