Benefits of wetlands

Wetlands have long been considered worthless and an impediment to development. They have been drained and filled to make way for houses, roads, and farmland.

In Minnesota

  • over 52 percent of our original wetlands have been lost due to development
  • of the remaining 13.1 million acres of wetlands, 3.3 million acres are regulated by the DNR

Although we continue to lose wetlands, the rate of loss is decreasing. And people are starting to discover how valuable wetlands are.

  • Erosion control. Wetland vegetation reduces erosion along lakes and stream banks by reducing forces associated with wave action.
  • Fisheries habitat. Many species of fish utilize wetland habitats for spawning, food sources, or protection.
  • Flood control. Wetlands can slow runoff water, minimizing the frequency streams and rivers reach catastrophic flood levels.
  • Ground water recharge and discharge. Some wetlands serve as a source of ground water recharge. By detaining surface waters that would otherwise quickly flow to distant lakes or rivers, the water can percolate into the ground and help ensure long-term supplies of quality ground water. Some wetlands are ground-water discharge areas; they receive ground water even during dry periods. This helps reduce the impact of short-term droughts on rivers and streams.
  • Natural filter. By trapping and holding water, wetlands store nutrients and pollutants in the soil, allowing cleaner water to flow in to the body of water beyond or below the wetland. Vegetation, like cattails, can absorb some of the pollutants that remain in the soil. Wetlands also moderate water flows, providing time for sediments to settle out before the water is released to other wetlands, lakes, or streams. Less sediment means clearer waters and a better environment for aquatic life.
  • Rare species habitat. 43 per cent of threatened or endangered species in the U.S. live in or depend on wetlands. This includes plants and animals.
  • Recreation. Wetlands are great places to canoe, hunt, fish, or explore and enjoy nature.
  • Source of income. Wetlands provide economic commodities such as cranberries and fish and provide spatial amenities to developments.
  • Wildlife habitat. Many animals depend on wetlands for homes and resting spots. Fish, amphibians, reptiles, aquatic insects and certain mammals need wetlands as a place for their young to be born and grow.
  • Education. Wetlands provide ideal locations for classroom ecological studies and a focus for art.