Wetlands are areas of a landscape that remain wet year round or become wet seasonally.

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Photo by Douglas Gayeton


Location: Engeldinger Marsh
Featuring: Naturalist Lewis

Nearly 95% of Iowa’s Wetlands have been destroyed, as a result we lose our natural filters.

Wetlands like Engeldinger Marsh, which was formed by the most recent glacier that covered North Central Iowa about 12,000- 14,000 years ago, have some of the cleanest water in the nation. If we still had its original number of wetlands today, there would be virtually no flooding in the Des Moines are Dikes or levees in Iowa prevent water from coming over the banks and flooding adjacent areas. If they were removed, much of the water would be retained in the wetlands and reduce flooding downstream.

As the vegetation from the marsh, sedges, and other plants are distributed onto the surface of the swamp, they are often covered with water all or part of the year, the water slows the decomposition process. Over time, more and more plant material gathers and forms a layer of peat (partially decayed plant material). This peat layer is the transition between plant material and soil. Eventually the peat breaks down into soil.

The EPA defines wetlands as “areas where water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season. Water saturation (hydrology) largely determines how the soil develops and the types of plant and animal communities living in and on the soil. Wetlands may support both aquatic and terrestrial species. The prolonged presence of water creates conditions that favor the growth of specially adapted plants (hydrophytes) and promote the development of characteristic wetland (hydric) soils.”

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