Wetlands that make an important contribution to Vermont’s natural heritage are significant wetlands. These include wetlands that are identified as high quality examples of one of Vermont’s recognized natural community types.
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.
Vegetated 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.
Many 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.
During rain storms and snow melt events, the amount of water running over the surface of the land increases, and in severe storms, flooding may result. Many wetlands, particularly floodplain wetlands, have the capacity to temporarily store flood waters during high runoff events.
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