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Though wetlands have played an important part in evolution, few people know of their importance and benefit. Only a small amount of natural wetlands remain in the United States because most have been drained for agricultural purposes. Only recently have people began to realize the importance of wetland restoration and preservation.

A wetland is an area of land characterized by the presence of standing water all or part of the time, with hydric soil, which holds water. The water in the wetland can be meteoric, from surface water, or from groundwater. Every wetland must have some kind of water source. There are four main types of wetland: swamps, dominated by trees, marshes, dominated by herbaceous vegetation, bogs, which accumulate peat with no significant in or out flow of water, and fens, which drain or have groundwater connections and accumulate peat.

Wetlands are an important and fascinating part of a watershed. The most important thing that wetlands do is improve water quality by removing harmful substances. Water flow from a stream slows down as it enters a wetland, and suspended sediment drops out of the water when it travels around plants and vegetation. This cleansing removes pollution, toxins and nutrients before the water flows back into the stream. Filtering nutrients out of the water prevents an excessive algae growth called an algae bloom that can kill water-dwelling creatures by robbing them of oxygen. Wetlands also soak up water, and though most of that water is retained in the wetland, a little bit goes to the groundwater supply and can be used at a later date. This ability is beneficial to streams because holding water in a wetland can minimize flooding and bank and shoreline erosion, both of which are major problems for our stream in particular. Right now, due to its speedy current and steeply entrenched banks, our stream only has a habitat for a few macro invertebrates. Wetlands, on the other hand, are the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems! They provide a water supply, a habitat for breeding, nesting, feeding and an escape from predators for amphibians, turtles, woodland songbirds, mammals, and macro-invertebrate species. Also, wetlands are a home for a variety of water-loving plants such as native grasses, sedges, wildflowers, shrubs and trees. With all their biological diversity, healthy and functioning wetlands are beautiful places.

Another way to keep pollutants out of streams is through rain gardens, where rain and storm water run down from impervious urban areas and soak into the soil.
Go to http://www.gardeners.com/Build-a-Rain-Garden/5712,default,pg.html to learn how to make a rain garden.
Also, if you would like to see pictures from the wetlands group and information on the wetlands at MMSK, click on this link: wetland pictures and project information