Wetland Functions and Values: Recreational Values and Economic Benefits

Three people canoeing in a wetland, using binoculars and taking photographs
Wetlands provide endless opportunities for popular recreational activities, such as hiking, boating, hunting, fishing, trapping and birdwatching. Almost everyone likes being on or near the water, and the presence of so many fascinating lifeforms makes our wetlands especially enjoyable treasures.

Wetland Functions and Values: Education and Research in Natural Sciences

Wetlands researchers conducting researchWetlands can provide tremendous opportunities for education and research. They are good systems to study for several reasons, one of which is that they are discrete ecosystems with easily defined boundaries. They also can exhibit a high diversity of habitats and species. By examining the types of pollen in layers of peat moss taken from bogs, we can learn about historical changes in climate and vegetation over thousands of years.

Wetland Functions and Values: Wildlife Habitat

Wetlands exhibit very high rates of plant productivity - the conversion of energy from the sun into plant materials. Recent studies suggest that some wetland types such as coastal marshes and inland freshwater marshes are among the most productive ecosystems in the world. This high productivity often supports a varied and complex food web both within and outside of the wetland.

Wetland Functions and Values: Erosion Control

wetlands along the shore of moving waterVegetated wetlands along the shores of lakes and rivers can protect against erosion caused by waves along the shorelines during floods and storms. Wetland plants are important because they can absorb much of the energy of the surface waters and bind soil and deposited sediments in their dense root systems.

Wetland Functions and Values: Surface and Ground Water Protection

Wetland bordering farmland - field of corn stubbleMany pollutants are washed by rainfall from urban and agricultural lands and are carried overland to water bodies. Pollutants include soil particles, fertilizers, pesticides, grease and oil from cars and trucks, and road salts. Wetlands can improve water quality by removing pollutants from surface waters.


Wetland restoration is the process of returning a degraded wetland to an approximation of its pre-disturbance condition.  The United States lost over half of its wetlands since European colonization in the early 1600s, and Vermont lost as much as 35 percent.  Until recently, wetlands were seen as obstacles to development, agriculture, and travel, and were systematically drained and altered.  Conversion of wetlands was accepted practice as recently as the 1950s, and was even incentivized by government policies (see the


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