Wetland conservation is aimed at protecting and preserving areas where water exists at or near the Earth's surface, such as
swamps A swamp is a forested wetland A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently (for years or decades) or seasonally (for weeks or months). Flooding results in oxygen-free (Anoxic waters, anoxic) processes preva ...

marshes A marsh is a wetland A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently (for years or decades) or seasonally (for weeks or months). Flooding results in oxygen-free (Anoxic waters, anoxic) processes prevailin ...
bogs A bog or bogland is a wetland A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently (for years or decades) or seasonally (for weeks or months). Flooding results in oxygen-free (Anoxic waters, anoxic) processes ...
Wetland A wetland is a distinct ecosystem An ecosystem (or ecological system) consists of all the organisms and the physical environment with which they interact. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles ...

s cover at least six per cent of the Earth and have become a focal issue for conservation due to the
ecosystem services Ecosystem services are the many and varied benefits to humans provided by the natural environment and from healthy . Such ecosystems include, for example, s, s, s and s. These ecosystems, functioning in healthy relationship, offer such things ...
they provide. More than three billion people, around half the world’s population, obtain their basic water needs from inland freshwater wetlands. The same number of people rely on rice as their staple food, a crop grown largely in natural and artificial wetlands. In some parts of the world, such as the Kilombero wetland in Tanzania, almost the entire local population relies on wetland cultivation for their livelihoods. Fisheries are also an extremely important source of protein and income in many wetlands. According to the
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization United may refer to: Places * United, Pennsylvania United is located in . It is a community located near . History In 1881, the , organized by a group of businessmen, opened the United Mine and Coke Works in Mount Pleasant Township. Served b ...
, the total catch from inland waters (rivers and wetlands) was 8.7 million metric tonnes in 2002. In addition to food, wetlands supply fibre, fuel and medicinal plants. They also provide valuable ecosystems for birds and other aquatic creatures, help reduce the damaging impact of floods, control pollution and regulate the climate. From economic importance, to
aesthetics Aesthetics, or esthetics (), is a branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical reality R ...

, the reasons for conserving wetlands have become numerous over the past few decades.

Wetland definition

Various definitions of wetlands exist. The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, also known as the
Ramsar Convention The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. It is also known as the Convention on Wetlands. It is named after th ...

Ramsar Convention
, defines wetlands as including: lakes and rivers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands and peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, near-shore marine areas, mangroves and coral reefs, and human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs, and salt pans. Meanwhile, the
United States Environmental Protection Agency The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is an of the tasked with matters. President proposed the establishment of EPA on July 9, 1970; it began operation on December 2, 1970, after Nixon signed an . The was ratified by committee hearings ...
(EPA) or
Wetlands Reserve ProgramThe Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is a wikt:voluntary, voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property. The United States Department of Agriculture, USDA Natural Resources Conservatio ...
, describes wetlands as "those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas." Wetlands vary widely in their salinity levels, climatic zones, supported flora, surrounding geography, whether they are coastal or inland and so on.

Wetland functions

The main functions performed by wetlands are: water filtration, water storage, biological productivity, and provide habitat for wildlife.EPA > Wetlands > Wetlands Facts Sheets > Functions and Values of Wetlands
/ref> Additional functions and uses of wetlands are described in
wetland A wetland is a distinct ecosystem An ecosystem (or ecological system) consists of all the organisms and the physical environment with which they interact. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles ...



Wetlands aid in water filtration by removing excess nutrients, slowing the water allowing particulates to settle out of the water which can then be absorbed into plant roots. Studies have shown that up to 92% of phosphorus and 95% of nitrogen can be removed from passing water through a wetland.Ducks Unlimited Canada > Wetland and Waterfowl Conservation > Value of Wetlands > Filter our water
/ref> Wetlands also let pollutants settle and stick to soil particles, up to 70% of sediments in runoff. Some wetland plants have even been found with accumulations of heavy metals more than 100,000 times that of the surrounding waters' concentration.DU > Conservation > Habitat
/ref> Without these functions, the waterways would continually increase their nutrient and pollutant load, leading to an isolated deposit of high concentrations further down the line. An example of such a situation is the
Mississippi River The Mississippi River is the second-longest river and chief river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and b ...

Mississippi River
’s dead zone, an area where nutrient excess has led to large amounts of surface algae, which use up the oxygen and create hypoxic conditions (very low levels of oxygen). Wetlands can even filter out and absorb harmful
bacteria Bacteria (; common noun bacteria, singular bacterium) are ubiquitous, mostly free-living organisms often consisting of one Cell (biology), biological cell. They constitute a large domain (biology), domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typ ...

from the water. Their complex food chain hosts various
microbes A microorganism, or microbe,, ''mikros'', "small") and ''organism In biology, an organism () is any organic, life, living system that functions as an individual entity. All organisms are composed of cells (cell theory). Organisms ar ...
and bacteria, which
invertebrates Invertebrates are animals that neither possess nor develop a vertebral column (commonly known as a ''backbone'' or ''spine''), derived from the notochord. This includes all animals apart from the chordata, chordate subphylum vertebrate, Vertebrat ...
feed on. These invertebrates can filter up to 90% of bacteria out of the water this way.


Wetlands can store approximately 1-1.5 million gallons of
floodwater Flash flooding caused by heavy rain falling in a short amount of time. A flood is an overflow of water that submerges land that is usually dry. In the sense of "flowing water", the word may also be applied to the inflow of the tide ...
per acre. When you combined with the approximate total acres of wetlands in the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
(107.7 million acres),Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Conterminous United States 1998 to 2004. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (December 2005), pp. 1-116. means that US wetlands can likely store over a trillion gallons of floodwater. By storing and slowing water, wetlands allow
groundwater Groundwater is the water Water (chemical formula H2O) is an , transparent, tasteless, odorless, and , which is the main constituent of 's and the s of all known living organisms (in which it acts as a ). It is vital for all known form ...

to be recharged. "A 550,000 acre swamp in Florida has been valued at $25 million per year for its role in storing water and recharging the aquifer." And combining the ability of wetlands to store and slow down water with their ability to filter out sediments, wetlands serve as strong
erosion In earth science Earth science or geoscience includes all fields of natural science Natural science is a branch of science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that Scientific ...


Biological productivity

Through wetlands ability to absorb nutrients, they are able to be highly biologically productive (able to produce
biomass Biomass is plant or animal material used as fuel to produce electricity Electricity is the set of physical phenomena associated with the presence and motion Image:Leaving Yongsan Station.jpg, 300px, Motion involves a change in position ...
quickly). Freshwater wetlands are even comparable to
tropical rainforests upright=1.8, Tropical rainforest climate zones (Af). Tropical rainforests are rainforests that occur in areas of tropical rainforest climate in which there is no dry season The dry season is a yearly period of low rainfall, especially i ...
in plant productivity. Their ability to efficiently create biomass may become important to the development of alternative energy sources. While wetlands only cover around 5% of the Conterminous United States’s land surface, they support 31% of the plant species. They also support, through feeding and nesting, up to ½ of the native
North American North America is a continent in the Northern Hemisphere and almost entirely within the Western Hemisphere. It can also be described as the northern subcontinent of a single continent, Americas, America. It is bordered to the north by the A ...
bird species. Bird populations, while playing a major role in food webs, are also the focus of several, well-funded recreation sports. (
Waterfowl hunting Waterfowl hunting (also called wildfowling or waterfowl shooting in the UK) is the practice of hunting ducks, geese, or other waterfowl for Game (food), food and sport. Many types of ducks and geese share the same habitat, have overlapping or id ...

Waterfowl hunting
bird watching Birdwatching, or birding, is a form of wildlife observation in which the observation of bird Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrates constituting the class (biology), class Aves , characterised by feathers, toothless beaked jaw ...

bird watching
to name a pair)

Wildlife habitat

Wildlife Habitat is important not only for the conservation of species but also for a number of recreational opportunities. As a conservation purpose, wildlife habitat is managed for maintaining and using the resources in sustainable manner. Ninety-five percent of all commercially harvested fish and
shellfish Shellfish is a colloquial and fisheries Fishery is the enterprise of raising or harvesting fish and other aquatic life. Commercial fisheries include wild fisheries and Fish farming, fish farms, both in fresh water (about 10% of all catch) and t ...

in the United States are wetland dependent. Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge is an example of recreational destination for hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography that has a good wildlife management. Some parts of the area are wetlands managed for providing habitat of migratory birds, such as waterfowl and songbirds. The 14 million United States hunters generate in excess of $50 billion annually in economic activity. This does not include the 60 million people that watch migratory birds as a hobby. The
Florida Keys The Florida Keys are a coral island, coral cay archipelago located off the southern coast of Florida, forming the southernmost part of the continental United States. They begin at the southeastern coast of the Florida peninsula, about south of ...
wetland area generates more than $800 million in annual tourism income alone.

Conservation by country

Conservation efforts vary in intensity and method by country. The following list is not comprehensive.

New Zealand

Over 90% of the wetlands in
New Zealand New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ''Aotearoa'' (; commonly pronounced by English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon Engl ...

New Zealand
have been drained since
Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of scienc ...

an settlement, predominantly to create farmland. Wetlands now have a degree of protection under the
Resource Management Act 1991 The Resource Management Act (RMA) passed in 1991 in New Zealand New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ) is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It consists of two main landmasses—the North Island () and the South Island ()—and mor ...

Republic of Macedonia

The fragments of wetland habitats that are still in existence in the Republic of Macedonia are present as marsh or swamp communities. These patches are present at Studenchishte (small fragment near Ohrid Lake), Pelagonia (village Chepigovo), Negortsi Spa, Bansko, Belchishte wetland and Monospitovo marsh. The large areas of swamps that used to be present in most of the valleys in contemporary Republic of Macedonia have undergone a great transformation over the last 50–60 years. The main cause for their reduction is land reclamation, drainage, and conversion into arable land for agricultural needs (Smith and Smith, 2003). Some of the remaining wetlands (Negortsi Spa, Bansko) are of great importance for understanding the genesis of marsh vegetation in the Republic of Macedonia as many mountainous marshes and peat bogs suffered anthropogenic transformation due to the capturing of water from mountain springs and streams for the purposes of generating drinking water (Smith, 2003). Accordingly, the fragmentation and transformation of previous swamps had a major impact on faunal distribution and abundance. Amphibians are the most affected species along with invertebrate and vertebrate groups including the European Otter (Lutra Lutra L.). It is listed as Nearly Threatened according to the IUCN’s red list and mainly found now only in the Belchishte wetland (Smith 2003; Smith and Smith, 2003). The otter has importance for the wetland communities not just in Macedonia but also in other European countries such as the Netherlands and Germany (Reuther, 1995; Reuther et al., 2001). Macedonian wetlands lie within the network of some of the bigger rivers in Macedonia including the Vardar River, a catchment area equal to 80% of Macedonian territory.

South Africa

The South African Department of Environmental Affairs in conjunction with the departments of Water Affairs and Forestry, and of Agriculture, supports the conservation and rehabilitation of wetlands through the Working for Wetlands program. The aim of this program is to encourage the protection, rehabilitation and sustainable use of South African wetlands through co-operative governance and partnerships. The program is also a poverty relief effort, providing employment in wetland maintenance.


The Swedish national wetland inventory (VMI) is one of the world's most extensive systematic inventories of nature types that has ever been done. VMI has surveyed the wetlands of
Sweden Sweden ( sv, Sverige ), officially the Kingdom of Sweden ( sv, links=no, Konungariket Sverige ), is a Nordic country The Nordic countries, or the Nordics, are a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that ...

below the alpine region during a 25-year period. In total 35 000 objects (sites) are included in VMI, corresponding to an area of 4.3 million hectares, or 10% of the land area of Sweden. The aim of the survey has been to increase the general knowledge of wetlands in Sweden, as a basis for environmental monitoring and natural resources planning. By investigating the impact of human activities on wetlands and identifying the most valuable wetlands, their values can be preserved for future generations. The results from the inventory were also meant to function as background data for the authorities' decisions concerning e.g. drainage permits.

United States

The US wetland conservation efforts are rooted partly in legislative requirements specifying that when a proposal is made to drain or fill a wetland, the proposers in many cases must offset the loss by restoring or constructing wetlands nearby that are of the same or greater size and levels of function. Several states within the US have additional requirements that must be met when wetland alteration is proposed. In addition, several federal programs provide financial incentives for wetland protection to private individuals whose land contains wetlands not completely protected by federal or state laws. A restoration project by the State of Florida in the Everglades acquired U.S. Sugar Corporation land allowing for water delivery, water treatment, and water storage of sufficient quantity and quality to mimic the Everglades' natural system.

Awarded Wetland Conservation Projects


Weishan Wetland Park
, ASLA National Awards , Professional Category , Award of Honor - General Design ,


, ASLA National Awards , Professional Category , Award of Honor - General Design ,

, ASLA National Awards , Professional Category , Award of Honor - General Design ,


, ASLA National Awards , Professional Category , Award of Excellent - General Design ,


, ASLA National Awards , Professional Category , Award of Honor - General Design ,


, ASLA National Awards , Professional Category , Award of Excellent - General Design ,

, ASLA National Awards , Professional Category , Award of Honor - General Design ,

, ASLA National Awards , Professional Category , Award of Honor - General Design ,


, ASLA National Awards , Professional Category , Award of Honor - General Design ,


, ASLA National Awards , Professional Category , Award of Honor - General Design ,

See also

World Wetlands Day World Wetlands Day is an environmentally related list of minor secular observances#February, celebration which dates back to the year of 1971 when several environmentalism, environmentalists gathered to reaffirm the protection and love for Wetlan ...

World Wetlands Day


External links

Short public tv program on Florida Everglades
{{DEFAULTSORT:Wetland Conservation