Benefits of Wetlands

WetlandsBenefits of Wetlands

For many years wetlands across the United States were drained as society failed to recognize the many benefits that wetlands provide for us. Ninety-five percent of the original wetlands in Iowa have been drained for agricultural lands. We now know that wetlands are essential for the environment and provide many benefits that would cost us billions of dollars to replicate. Some of these benefits include:

  • Recharge groundwater by holding water for long periods of time and allowing time for the water to infiltrate downward into aquifers or groundwater systems. This ground water may be used for drinking, irrigation, and maintenance of local streams and lakes.
  • Slow down water’s movement, helping to reduce or eliminate flooding in areas
  • Purifies water as it moves through the wetland by:

    • Allowing solids such as sediment and heavy metals to drop out of water to the bottom of the wetlands where they are held in place by the wetland plants.
    • Pulls pollutants and toxins out water as they move through by trapping them and burying them in the soil or converting them to less harmful forms of the chemicals.
    • Plant life absorbs some nutrients present in the water and soil organism convert other nutrients to less harmful chemical forms to prevent them from moving into other bodies of water and causing eutrophication.

iStock-482872202 WetlandsThe restoration of Little Storm Lake into wetlands is intended to provide this purification function to improve the quality of Storm Lake by collecting both agricultural and urban runoff and allowing it to run through the wetlands.

Supports an abundance of species (comparable to rainforests) by providing habitat, breeding grounds, and food sources for them.

  • Buffer colder temperatures
  • Helps with shoreline maintenance as the plant life holds soil in place against waves and currents that might be present in larger bodies of water connected to the wetlands.

For more information on wetlands, please see the Local Ecosystems page.


For more information, please see:
How Stuff Works- Wetlands
Department of Ecology, Washington State University
Iowa DNR
United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Services Iowa