Why Wetlands Are Important
are areas of land that are covered with water at least part of the
year and contain plants and animals that are adapted to these conditions.
Wetlands are one of the most biologically diverse systems in the
world and can be compared to tropical rain forests and coral reefs
in the diversity of species they support.
Wetlands Are Important
Wetlands, also called bogs, swamps and marshes, are vital to the
Rouge River Watershed. Wetlands provide many benefits including:
water quality improvements; food and habitat for fish and wildlife;
flood control and shoreline erosion control; and recreation.
Water Quality Improvements
Wetlands improve water quality by filtering out pollutants before
they reach the river. These pollutants include nutrients and sediments.
Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers,
contribute a large amount of pollution to the Rouge River. Excess
nutrients contribute to increased algae growth, which reduces the
amount of oxygen in the water. Wetlands can filter as much as 91%
of the phosphorus and 86% of the nitrogen.
Sediments that are suspended in running water can also be
removed by wetlands. As the running water enters a wetland, the
water slows and the sediments settle out. Some wetlands can retain
as much as 94% of the sediment (dirt). Clean sediments are important
because they contain air pockets that aquatic life depend upon to
exist. These spaces provide habitat for aquatic organisms to lay
their eggs and contributes oxygen that is essential for their survival.
Flood and Shoreline Erosion Control
Wetlands function like big sponges, slowing down and absorbing
excess water during storms. This combined action of slowing and
storing water reduces flooding downstream and shoreline erosion.
Food and Habitat for Fish and Wildlife
Fish. Wetlands serve three major functions for fish communities.
They provide breeding grounds, act as sources of food and provide
cover from predators. Most species of freshwater fish are dependent
on wetlands for one or more of these functions.
Wildlife. Many varieties of waterfowl and non-game birds
depend on wetlands for feeding and resting areas during their spring
and fall migration. Resident birds rely on them for nesting and
as primary feeding areas. Other wildlife, such as the mink, muskrat
and beavers, rely on wetlands.
In addition, wetlands are a productive habitat for insects. Waterfowl,
non-game birds and a variety of reptiles and amphibians depend on
insect-based food webs. Many species of turtles, snakes, frogs and
toads live in and rely upon wetlands.
Endangered Species. Wetlands are vital to the survival of
various plants and animals, including threatened and endangered
species. Approximately 30% of Michigan's threatened and endangered
plants and 60% of the threatened and endangered animals are wetland
There are many recreational activities that involve wetlands. Hunting
and fishing for wetland dependent species is a major recreational
activity in Michigan. In addition, people enjoy wetlands for hiking,
birdwatching and photography.
Natural wetlands include swamps, bogs and marshes. These
wetlands occur naturally within the Rouge River Watershed.
Enhanced. Some land areas have historically been wetlands,
but were changed due to some outside influence, such as draining
the area for farming and development. These wetlands can be restored
by leaving them undrained. This can be accomplished by plugging
the ditches or breaking the tiles that lead to the drain.
For information on wetland loss, visit
EPA's Office of
Water, Oceans and Wetlands
Constructed wetlands create a wetland where one previously
did not exist. Wetland design, site selection and a maintenance
plan must be developed in order for the constructed wetlands to
To Learn More About Constructed
Wetlands in the Rouge River Watershed, click here.
The Rouge Project has initiated projects that utilize existing,
enhanced and constructed wetlands to demonstrate the effectiveness
of wetlands in treating stormwater runoff. This evaluation will
identify the pollutants eliminated and the removal rate by the wetlands.
In addition, the water quality and quantity will be measured to
determine the effect of the wetland on the River.
Inkster Constructed Wetlands Project
Literature Review: Wetlands
as a Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Measure (August 1993,
31 pages, 127k)
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