Wetlands : How nature filters and stores water
Wetlands are semi-permanently to permanently water-saturated lands that vary uniquely based on local hydrology, climate, geology, and vegetation. They act as natural filters and sponges to cleanse, store, and gradually release water into our streams, rivers, and reservoirs and are as productive as rain forests and coral reefs. Once feared as a source of disease, wetlands have probably been the most misunderstood and transformed the landscape in the country. The area of wetlands that have been lost through conversion to other land uses is staggering. In Missouri, we’ve lost over 87% of our original wetlands.
Learn where these wetlands have been lost to development projects and access our interactive map of permitted projects here.
There are several general categories of wetlands:
- Marshes — dominated by soft-stemmed vegetation, typically grasses and sedges, and include much of the Everglades and prairie potholes (upper Midwest).
- Prairie Potholes — marsh pools found in the Upper Midwest that provide vital habitat for the greater prairie chicken, amphibians, and more than half of North America’s migratory waterfowl. They hold stormwater and snowmelt and it is estimated that draining and filling for farming and development has destroyed over 50% of these unique wetlands.
- Swamps — comprised primarily of woody vegetation and include areas in southern Illinois and the Missouri Bootheel like the Cypress woodlands below
- Bogs — are a natural successional stage of a lake that is identified by high acidity, low nutrient content, and usually, contain peat deposits
- Fens — are fed by surface runoff or groundwater with neutral to alkaline water content.
More on wetlands
The distance from their water source is a critical factor that differentiates wetlands with varying plant and animal types. The cross-section below provides a general view of this elevation and lateral changes in ecosystems within coastal wetlands.
A large portion of the U.S. wetlands are located along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers with significant areas within and along the border of Missouri.
Large portions of our historic wetlands have been lost due to development.