May is American Wetlands Month

While we are honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military this Memorial Day weekend, don’t forget that May is also the American Wetlands Month.

What is American Wetlands Month?

American Wetlands Month was founded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to celebrate the importance of wetlands for our nation’s ecological, economic, and social health in 1991.

What are wetlands?

“Every swamp is a wetland, but not all the swamps are wetlands”. Wetlands are transitional areas between land and water, including marshes, bogs, swamps, floodplains, and tidal and riparian zones. There is significant diversity among wetland community types that result from morphology, hydrology, water chemistry, soil characteristics, and vegetation.

Why do we celebrate wetlands?
Limpkin birds at Paynes Prairie

We celebrate wetlands because they are important. They improve water quality and provide wildlife habitat. Wetlands are often known as “nature’s kidneys” because of their ability to remove excess nutrients, toxic substances, and sediment from water that flows through them. They improve downstream water quality and the overall health of waters in our communities. Wetlands also provide habitat for many species of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals that are uniquely adapted to aquatic environments. They also provide food and shelter for upland wildlife such as deer, elk and bears. Wetlands are particularly vital to many migratory bird species. Some of well known birds include wood ducks and sandhill cranes.

Wetlands as A Tool for Water Treatment

In the U.S., the application of natural wetlands to improve water quality was first piloted in Florida and Michigan. In order to protect natural wetlands, current regulations only allow natural wetlands to receive wastewater that has already received “extensive treatment” by wastewater treatment facilities. By extensive treatment, we mean at least secondary or tertiary treatment. Therefore, constructed wetlands are a more common practice nowadays as a a tool for wastewater treatment. They are designed to mimic the natural biological, chemical, and physical processes of a natural wetland. Some constructed wetlands can achieve secondary and tertiary treatment. To learn more about wetlands as a tool for water treatment, please read this article.

Explore Wetlands Near You
A wetland with aquatic vegetation

Wetlands are found throughout the State of Florida. Florida has one of the most famous wetlands in the world – Everglades. Everglades is a subtropical wetland ecosystem spanning two million acres across central and south Florida. While we picture wetlands, however, we often think of freshwater wetlands. There are also saltwater wetlands. Florida’s coastal areas are stabilized by wetlands, which serve as barriers and buffers against wind and waves. In these wetlands you’ll find mangroves, buttonwoods, seagrasses and other salt-tolerant trees and plants. Visit Wetland Mapper to find a wetland near you while we celebrate the American Wetland Month.



Posted: May 22, 2020

Category: Natural Resources, UF/IFAS Extension, Water, Wildlife
Tags: Amphibians, Birds, Constructed Wetlands, Habitat, Reptiles, Wastewater Treatment, Water, Water Quality, Water Treatment, Wetland, Yilin Zhuang

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