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Michigan dnr > wildlife viewing guide > ecology: wetland

What is a Wetland?

MarshTrue to its name, a wetland contains land that is wet, although it may not be wet year round. Most wetlands are associated with shallow water and aquatic plants. Michigan has four basic types of wetlands:

Marsh — contains fresh water and aquatic plants such as cattails, water lilies, and lotus.

SwampSwamp — contains fresh water and a few small plants, but is dominated by shrubs and trees.

Bog — contains acidic water created by decaying plants and an absence of fresh water in-flow. Bogs may have floating mats of dense sphagnum moss and other specialized plants.

Fen — the rarest of Michiganís wetlands, fens contain alkaline water that flows from caves and other underground water supplies. Fens are very fragile and are easily disturbed.

Nationwide, wetlands are home to more different kinds of wildlife than any other type of habitat, and nearly half of all U.S. endangered species depend on wetlands for survival.

In addition to being tremendous wildlife habitat, wetlands also provide many other services that are directly beneficial to people, including:

Water quality — wetlands dramatically increase water quality by trapping soil that erodes from the land and by removing organic wastes and many disease agents from the water.

Flood control — wetlands serve as giant sponges, storing rainwater and releasing it gradually to storm-swollen streams and rivers.

Groundwater recharge — wetlands purify and replenish the wells that provide many people with drinking water.

Recreation — a healthy wetland can provide tremendous recreational opportunities for hunters, birders, and other outdoor enthusiasts.

In days gone by, people believed that wetlands were unproductive "wastelands," and nearly 75% of Michiganís original wetlands have been drained for agriculture or development. Today, we understand that wetlands are brimming with life and are extremely beneficial to society. Protecting and restoring wetlands has become a conservation priority—in Michigan and throughout the world.

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