• Important for habitat and food for many plant and wildlife species
  • Support both aquatic and terrestrial species
  • Absorb and slow floodwaters
  • Enhance water quality
  • Dramatic loss due to natural changes and human activity

Habitat Description: Wetlands

Wetlands are the links between land and water. They are areas where water covers the soil or is present near the surface all year or for varying periods of time, particularly during the growing season. Wetlands in the United States are classified as marshes, swamps, bogs and fens.

They all provide habitat for thousands of plant and animal species. More than one-third of the country’s threatened and endangered species live only in wetlands. Estuarine and marine fish and shellfish; and certain birds and mammals need coastal wetlands to survive. Wetlands provide numerous other benefits such as improving water quality, storing floodwater and increasing biological productivity. Water storage in wetlands can significantly reduce the risk of costly property damage and threats to safety.

More than half of the country’s wetlands have been drained or converted to other uses. Wetlands have historically been threatened by large-scale draining for real estate development or flooding for use as recreational lakes. Changes to water quality and flow rates; increases in pollutant use; and the introduction of non-native plant species have adversely affected wetlands. People can participate in conservation efforts by restoring wetlands on personal property; supporting local watershed protection; and reducing the amount of fertilizers and pesticides used on landscapes.

Other Publications

Types of Wetlands (PDF)
Environmental Protection Agency

Wetlands differ due to topography, soil type, climate, water chemistry, vegetation, and human disturbance. There are four general categories of wetlands in the U.S.: marshes, bogs, fens, and swamps. This publication discusses each category.

Economic Benefits of Wetlands (PDF)
Environmental Protection Agency

Wetlands contribute to the economy by producing resources, providing recreational opportunities, controlling pollution and providing protection from floods. This publication discusses the economic benefits to local and national economies provided by wetland habitats.

Threats to Wetlands (PDF)
Environmental Protection Agency

Wetlands have declined in 22 states by as much as 50%. This has had effects on bird populations, water quality, flood protection, and more. This publication discusses the causes of wetland loss, the rate of decline, and what you can do to help.

Wetland Restoration (PDF)
Environmental Protection Agency

Wetland restoration involves renewing natural and historical wetlands that have been lost or degraded. This publication discusses why and how to restore wetlands as well as features a success story.

Functions and Values of Wetlands in Louisiana (PDF)
Louisiana Ag Center Research and Extension

This publication takes an in depth look at wetlands including a detailed definition of wetlands, the factors that contribute to the decline in wetlands, why it is important to save them and the types and functions of wetlands. It also discusses storm, flood and erosion control. The publication also describes the importance of wetlands to humans, including business and commerce, recreation, and education.


Standing dead trees are called snag. They often have cavities or holes in them that provide nesting habitat and homes for birds and mammals like squirrels and bears, food and homes for woodpeckers, homes for salamanders and frogs and a multitude of insects.