Missouri Department of Conservation encourages the public to learn about Missouri’s wetlands during American Wetlands Month in May.
"Wetlands play a critical role in every ecosystem by improving water quality, providing habitat for plants and animals and reducing flooding by absorbing excess rain," states a MDC release.
“May is a great time to experience Missouri’s rivers, streams and wetlands,” said MDC Wetland Ecologist Frank Nelson. “Water is flowing, temperatures are warming and plants are bursting with a myriad of green hues.”
Wetlands are a transition zone between land and aquatic environments, and they protect the quality of both. Once abundant, wetlands now make up less than 1 million acres, or roughly 2%, of Missouri’s landscape.
“We have nine different wetland natural communities in Missouri,” explained Nelson. “They include marshes, shrub swamps, bottomland prairies, bottomland forests, swamps, sinkhole ponds, oxbow lakes and sloughs, riparian areas and groundwater seeps.”
Missouri’s wetlands provide numerous ecological benefits, states the release, such as erosion control, water quality improvement, pollution filtration and supporting fertile farm ground. They are also the primary habitat of hundreds of plant and animals that are considered rare or endangered in Missouri.
“Wetlands are frequently referred to as nature’s kidneys because of their ability to store and filter contaminants from the land that could harm other waterways,” said Nelson. “They also are likened to sponges because of their ability to soak up floodwaters.”
Wetland areas also provide recreation and tourism opportunities such as wildlife watching, fishing, boating, hunting and hiking.
To find a wetland, visit nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places.