By Micah Moen
Illinois Wetlands What is a Wetland? Wetlands are areas that are either covered with shallow water or have soils that are saturated with water for periods during the growing season. Wetlands must have the following traits. periodic water hydric soils – soils that lack oxygen hydrophytic plants – plants that grow in water or in saturated soil Wetlands serve as connections between dry land and permanent water. What are Some Types of Wetlands in Illinois? Marshes, fens, swamps, bogs and certain riparian areas are wetlands in our state. Other wetlands include forested wetlands, wet prairies and scrub-shrub wetlands. Where does the Water in Wetlands Come From? (rain sounds) Rainfall runoff, direct rainfall, seepage from groundwater (rain sounds) or a combination of these sources provide the water in wetlands. (rain sounds) What makes Up a Wetland? Wetlands are composed of living and nonliving things. The living things are adapted to the characteristics of a wetland by their form, function and behavior. Wetland organisms include a great variety of species, from viruses to mammals. What are the Values of Wetlands? Wetlands are very important to the environment. They absorb large amounts of stormwater runoff and reduce flooding by storing and slowing down the water. In Illinois, more than 40 percent of threatened and endangered plants and animals depend on wetlands. Wetland plants slow sediment buildup and absorb as much as 90 percent of the chemicals in the water that runs into them. Wetlands provide food, water, shelter and resting areas for a variety of species. Wetlands help support fishing, hunting, trapping, paddle sports, wildlife observation and nature photography. Wetlands are useful for biological research and observation. Where are the Wetlands in Illinois? Most wetlands in Illinois are in the northeastern and southern parts of the state and along the Illinois River. However, all counties in Illinois have wetlands. What are Some Threats to Wetlands? The amount of wetlands in the land that is now Illinois once covered about 8.2 million acres. Today, about 1.25 million acres of wetlands remain. Nearly 90 percent of the wetlands in the state have been destroyed, mainly by human activities and mainly for agricultural purposes and urban/industrial development. Other threats to wetlands continue to occur like soil erosion, habitat destruction and chemical pollution.