Wetlands are incredibly valuable natural ecosystems, offering significant environmental, social, and economic benefits. Despite their importance, they remain one of the most misunderstood and undervalued landscapes on Earth. A greater understanding of wetlands can illuminate the need for their protection and preservation—not only as key conservation areas, but also as vital parts of America’s scenic beauty and character.
What Are Wetlands?
By definition, wetlands are areas where water covers the soil—or is present either at or near the surface of the soil—all year, or for varying periods of time during the year. Wetlands can be fresh, brackish, or saline. They include marshes, ponds, lakes, fens, rivers, floodplains, and swamps in the inland areas, and saltwater marshes, estuaries, mangroves, lagoons, and coral reefs in coastal areas.
Some of the most well-known wetlands in the US include:
- Everglades National Park, Florida
- Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware
- Salton Sea, California
- Great Salt Lake, Utah
Types of Wetlands
There are many types of wetlands, but the most common are marshes, swamps, and peatlands. Marshes, which include both freshwater and saltwater types, are characterized by their grassy vegetation. Swamps, on the other hand, are forested wetlands and can be either freshwater or saltwater. Lastly, peatlands are unique wetlands that accumulate peat, a type of soil that is rich in carbon.
Why Wetlands Are Important
The importance of wetlands extends beyond just being a source of water or a habitat for wildlife. They play crucial roles in carbon sequestration, flood control, water purification, and maintaining biodiversity—all essential for mitigating and managing climate change. Wetlands also provide green spaces that serve as a scenic buffer against urban development, offering refuge for wildlife and recreational areas for people.
Wetland Protection: A Vital Part of Scenic Conservation
Without wetlands, the scenic landscapes we often take for granted could be forever changed. Think of the mystic marshes of the Florida Everglades, or the iconic swamps of southern Louisiana. Wetlands, as green spaces, also contribute significantly to our mental and physical well-being by providing spaces for rest, relaxation, and recreation. In these ways, they become integral parts of local life, community, and culture. Let’s all work together to secure a sustainable future for these incredible ecosystems.
Here at Scenic America, we value our country’s scenic beauty and want to see it persist. We work to preserve the Scenic Byways, landscapes, and towns that define our nation’s visual character. Donate today to help us protect our beautiful places and the heart of our country’s character!