Wetlands are areas that, under normal circumstances, are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater frequently enough and long enough to support vegetation that is adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps (forested), marshes (non-forested), bogs (peat) and other similar areas, and may be either freshwater or estuarine systems.
Wetlands perform a variety of beneficial functions, including:
- Habitat diversity and food chain support for fish and wildlife;
- Erosion control and shoreline stabilization;
- Maintenance of stream flows by gradually releasing stored water after floods and wet seasons;
- Storage of storm and flood waters;
- Improvement of water quality through filtration and retention of sediments, nutrients and contaminants;
- Groundwater recharge; and
- Education, scientific study, and aesthetic appreciation.