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    Wetlands are areas where there is water present for an extended period of time that has a controlling influence on the plants, soil composition and wildlife that is present. They are present in a variety of landscape settings including low areas adjacent to waterbodies, isolated depressions filled with surface runoff, places with groundwater discharge and more. They are characterized by the vegetation type of each wetland. For example, a swamp containing mainly red-maple would be considered a red-maple swamp.

Soils within a wetland are called hydric soils. Web Soil Survey is a good tool to see if there may be hydric soils in an area.

   There are countless species of plants and animals that depend on wetlands to survive. Species of migratory birds utilize wetlands in fly zones to rest and eat. Many also raise their young in and around wetlands. Wetlands are also crucial for amphibian populations. Vernal pools (a type of wetland) are breeding grounds for many amphibian species. Vernal pools are great because they are wet in spring and dry up in summer. Because vernal pools aren't permanent waterbodies, fish cannot establish in them, meaning there are less predators of the newly hatched and still developing frogs and slamanders.

    Wetlands are an amazing natural resource that haven't always been valued throughout history. In the past, people have looked at wetlands as wastelands and have been degraded them by filling, dredging and darining then for developement and agricultural purposes. Because of past actions, it is estimated that throughout 48 states, over 50 percent of our originial wetlands have been lost.

Today, wetlands are recognized as an important natural resource and are federally regulated. In New York, regulations are more strict to protect our wetlands. Wetlands are protected because of their many values. One value is that they help protect our water quality. Wetland vegetation removes excess nutrients and pollution from the water through evapotransporation. The vegetation also traps sediments and keeps them from flowing in nearby waterbodies. Another value is water storage. In a flood event, wetlands hold water and release it slowly. This decreases damage to property and decreases the potential for erosion.

If you are looking to start a project in an area where a wetland may be present, contact the New York State Department of Conservation or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Check Out These Resources For More Information on Wetlands & Where to Find Them in New York or Throughout the United States

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Wetland Mapper
National Wetlands Inventory

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Page last updated: February 5, 2020