Functions of a Wetland
- Flood control- Wetlands act as sponges by capturing, storing, and slowly releasing water over weeks
- Coastal protection- Wetlands act as storm buffers. Roots hold soil in place and stalks reduce the energy
from storm waves and wind.
- Groundwater recharge- Water from wetlands -like beaver ponds- seeps into the ground, recharging aquifers.
- Sediment traps- Wetland vegetation can slow water velocity and particles settle out as velocity
decreases. Pesticides, heavy metals, and other potentially harmful residues can settle
out. Too much sediment in water can cause clogged gills in aquatic animals, and fluctuations
in water temperature.
- Waste treatment- Wetlands have a high rate of biological production that leads to a large waste consuming
capacity. Also, sediment deposition buries waste and bacterial activity can break
down and neutralize waste.
- Pollution interception- Wetland plants can take up and filter pollutants like nitrogen and phosphorous.
Some pollutants settle into the soil and are chemically reduced over time while other
pollutants may be processed by bacteria.
- Biological production- As a whole, wetlands outproduce any other type of environment, even tropical rain
forests. Wetlands cover approximately 6 % of the earth's surface, but they account
for 24% of total global productivity.
- Habitat- Wetlands provide food, shelter, resting places, or predatory opportunities to a
variety of animals.
- Food- Wild rice and cranberries are both grown in wetlands. Wetland soils are rich in
nutrients, high in organic matter, and generally less erosive than other soils. Wetlands
that have been drained and converted into agricultural land or wetlands that are under
cultivation during dry periods in the United States provide over 25% of all major
crops. Once wetlands are permanently drained the conditions that created productive
soils are lost as well, along with benefits like recreation, fish habitat, and pollution
- Fuel- Peat from wetlands can be harvested, dried and burned for electrical power. Peat mining can have environmental impacts including compromised local water quality,
unchecked storm runoff and habitat destruction.
- Timber and fiber harvest-wetlands have dense stands of vegetation with rapid growth rates which prove beneficial
for wood and fiber industries. Draining and clear-cutting wetlands was the normal
practice until recently. Sustainable selective cutting and vigorous replanting practices
have become more common.
- Recreation, aesthetics, and education-Birdwatching, canoeing, fishing, hunting, painting, and hiking are all recreational
activities that can be enjoyed at wetlands.
- Cultural Heritage and Archaeological Evidence- Anaerobic conditions (conditions without oxygen) create thick layers of organic
materials that slow down the decomposition process. Artifacts, clothing, and even
human remains are well preserved in these layers. Information about cultures including
dietary nuances, clothing materials, and building styles are available for study at