Wetlands are not always wet, and seasonal or temporary wetlands, such as vernal pools, serve as important breeding areas for certain amphibians. All wetlands, however, are defined by three characteristics:
- The presence of plants that are known to grow in saturated conditions.
Soils that lack oxygen (many appear ashen or mottled and have rust stains).
Water at or near the surface during some part of the growing season.
Find a wetland in your area using the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wetlands Inventory map. Click the box marked wetlands on the right side of the screen to highlight them on the map.
The Importance of Wetlands
Wetlands, including swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas, provide numerous ecological and social functions. Wetlands serve as crucial nurseries and homes to both saltwater and freshwater fish, wildlife, and plants. In addition, wetlands are responsible for reducing flood risks by holding and dissipating heavy rains and snow melt, recharging groundwater and water supplies, filtering to clean water, and recycling nutrients. Finally, wetlands also provide a variety of recreational and wildlife viewing opportunities.
Learn how to make your own yard amphibian friendly: Learn More
Discover the different types of wetlands
Tidal marshes are found along coastlines and can be fresh, brackish or saltwater. They are influenced by the tidal flow of water. The freshwater tidal marshes tend to be further inland and can sustain amphibian populations. The brackish and saltwater marshes are closer to the coastline. Saltwater marshes are submerged and exposed each day by the changing tides. These types of marshes can be found in the Everglades and around Biscayne National Park.
These marshes are mostly freshwater but some can be brackish. They tend to not be influenced by tidal flow. They usually occur along streams, poorly drained areas and along lakes, ponds and rivers. These wetlands usually contain highly organic materials and great biodiversity. The South Dade Wetlands is a great example of this in our area.
Swamps are wetlands dominated by woody plants and have saturated soils part of the year and standing water in other parts of the seasons. The mangrove swamps of the Cutler Wetlands and cypress swamps of the Everglades are easily recognizable examples in Miami-Dade County.
Bogs usually have acidic waters and a base of thick moss. They usually receive most of their water through precipitation. They usually form from a filled in lake or from moisture retention in a heavy growth of sphagnum moss. They tend to have low nutrient levels and specialized plants. These tend to be found in the Northern areas of the U.S. with colder climates but a form called Pocosins can be found in Northern Florida.
Fens are similar to bogs but get some of their water from groundwater and drainage in addition to precipitation. They tend to have higher nutrient levels then bogs and greater plant diversity. These wetlands also tend to be found in more northern climates.
Vernal pools are areas of water that tend to form during the rainy season and then dry up during the rainy season. They can be both natural and man-made. With the rainy season in Miami-Dade County, vernal pools can be found almost everywhere!