Wetlands mean different things to different people. Some envision dark, murky swamps, while others think of them as places to enjoy an early morning duck hunt or an afternoon of wildlife watching. A wetland is land that contains adequate soil moisture to support certain types of water-tolerant vegetation. Wetlands vary in type from permanently flooded sloughs to areas that only have saturated soil during part of the year.
Importance of Wetlands
- Wetlands function as biological filters that remove sediments and pollutants from surface waters.
- Wetlands act as natural sponges, reducing the severity of floods by slowly releasing excess water back into the stream or groundwater table.
- Wetlands are biologically productive, with a greater diversity of plants and animals than is found in drier habitats.
Wetlands in Missouri
Historically, natural wetlands dominated the floodplains and river deltas in Missouri. During the past few decades, many were converted to agricultural land. However, many of these fields continue to be too wet to farm, even after they were cleared and drained. These wet fields are the best sites for restoring or developing wetlands on private property. It is important to preserve our few remaining natural wetlands, restore degraded wetlands if feasible, and develop new wetlands wherever possible.