What are wetlands?

Wetlands are permanently or temporarily wet areas that support plants and animals adapted to wet conditions.

Wetlands can include swamps, bogs, estuaries, salt marshes, lakes, ponds, lagoons, the margins of rivers and streams, and even farm drains.

 No two wetlands are exactly alike. The look of a wetland and its mix of plants and animals will vary with local conditions (e.g. climate, water flow, altitude and substrate).

Several different types of plant and animal communities may be present in larger wetlands and all wetlands may change over time. Part of a wetland and its margins near Koputaroa, in the Horowhenua.  

Wetlands once covered extensive areas of the country. Now they are some of New Zealand’s rarest and most at-risk ecosystems. About 90% of freshwater wetlands have been destroyed in the last WETLANDS 150 years.

The conservation and restoration of wetland habitats can make a real and positive difference for wetland species but there are also benefits that affect us directly. Think of a wetland as a giant sponge. Wetland plants slow the flow of water off the land so that, in times of flood, more can be absorbed into the soil.

In summer, stored water is slowly released maintaining water flows. Wetland plants trap waterborne sediment, reducing silt levels in our streams and rivers.

Along the banks of rivers and streams, their roots hold the soil together, reducing erosion. Bacteria living in the damp soil of wetlands absorb and break down about 90% of nitrogen from farm runoff fertilisers, chemicals, animal wastes etc.

Cleaner water prevents nuisance algal blooms in streams and rivers and is healthier for stock. Wetlands also form part of our natural landscape and offer many options for recreation such as fishing, hunting and bird watching.

 image obtained from http://www.fishandgame.org.nz/wonderful-wetlands