Wetlands play a crucial role in the ecology of the Huron River, Saline River and their tributaries. Learn more about their significance below.
What is a Wetland? An area of land that is saturated or flooded with water for at least part of the year, resulting in very wet soils with low oxygen levels. Unique water-loving plants and aquatic life thrive in this wet, low-oxygen environment.
Wetlands are complex natural systems that provide us with valuable benefits. Wetlands perform the following services free of charge:
Water quality protection
Stormwater storage and flood control
Plant and wildlife habitat
Streambank and shoreline stabilization
Removal of pollutants before they enter waterways
Aesthetic and recreation opportunities
Almost all wetlands provide water quality protection, plant and wildlife habitat and aesthetic and recreation opportunities. Small wetlands (less than 5 acres in size, which are not protected by State law) often serve as many functions as larger wetlands.
Types of Wetlands Many terms are used to describe wetlands, but most fall into three general categories:
Marshes are what most people think of as a wetland. Marshes feature shallow standing water, often near a lake or stream. Plants include rushes, reeds, sedges, cattails and grasses. Marshes provide habitat for many fish, amphibians, birds and mammals.
Swamps are forested wetlands dominated by trees and shrubs such as red maple, black ash, elm, poplar, willow and dogwoods. They can be located where groundwater comes close to the surface. Swamps provide habitat for a wide array of wildlife.
Peatlands include bogs and fens. Both are characterized by peat deposits, created by the accumulation of dead plant material. Fens are fed by groundwater, while bogs only get water from rainfall and snow. Many plants and animals are uniquely adapted to live in peatlands.
What's Happening to Our Wetlands? More than 60% of the wetlands in southeast Michigan have been filled, drained, ditched or built over. With development comes an increase in impervious surfaces, such as pavement and rooftops, which do not allow water to soak into the soil. Without wetlands to help absorb and slow down the increased runoff, polluted stormwater drains directly into our waterways, where it causes erosion and flooding, destroys habitat and decreases water quality.
More and more developers are using better site design techniques to protect wetlands, but new homeowners often remove the wetland vegetation that has been preserved on their property. Continued education efforts are needed to help residents understand the many benefits that wetlands provide.
What Can YOU Do For YOUR Wetlands? Residents, developers and local government officials can all play a role in protecting and restoring wetlands.
Preserve the existing natural vegetation on your property, particularly if you think it may be located in a wetland.
Do not apply fertilizers or pesticides within 30 feet or wetland areas. Avoid planting turf grass or building in this "buffer zone."
Encourage your local elected officials to pass ordinances that supplement State wetland laws.
Support community planning efforts that protect wetlands and other natural areas.
Encourage your state legislators to promote policies that curb urban sprawl and protect wetlands and other natural features.
Note: This information on wetlands has been reprinted from the flyer, "A Citizen's Guide to Wetlands" developed by the Clinton River Watershed Council, Rochester Hills, MI.