Wetlands are places where plants and animals live among standing water or saturated soils. They are sometimes called swamps, sloughs, potholes, marshes, bogs, fens, seeps, oxbows, shallow ponds, or wet meadows. Each of these wetland types has unique characteristics.
Wetlands dotted the prairie and woodland landscapes that dominated Iowa. They were most common in north and central Iowa in the region known as the Des Moines Lobe. This region is the result of the most recent glaciers that carved through the area 10-14 thousand years ago.
Polk County Conservation Board manages two wetlands: Engeldinger Marsh and Carney Marsh. Visit these spots for a personal experience of wetlands.
Here are some interesting facts about wetlands that should help you appreciate their value:
- We have lost more than 95 percent of our original wetland habitats in Iowa.
- Nationally, approximately 54 percent of our wetlands have been drained or filled.
- Wetlands filter pollutants from runoff and control flooding.
- More than 1,200 species of plants make U.S. fresh-water wetlands their home.
- More than 10,000 invertebrate species are adapted to life in fresh-water wetlands.
- The majority of Iowa’s endangered species live in wetlands.
- The world’s tiniest flowering plant, duckweed, is common in Iowa wetlands.
Wetlands play a critical role in the life cycle of Iowa wildlife – providing areas for breeding, raising young, gathering food, and a stopover area for migrating birds.