What exactly is a wetland? It’s a name given to any area that is covered much of the time with shallow water, that has visible plants growing in it, and an abundance of animal life. You may know wetlands as marshes, bogs, and swamps and you should be able to find either a freshwater or saltwater wetland near you.
Conservationists are trying hard to convince communities to leave wetlands untouched whenever possible. They support a tremendous amount of life as they are both nurseries for animals that move on to other habitats, as well as home to many permanent residents; they are also natural buffers that contain flood waters and trap silt.
Wisconsin has more than a dozen different types of wetlands and they range in size from tiny seasonal wetlands to vast marshes like those found along the Mississippi River. The types of wetlands found in northern Wisconsin include marshes (these have aquatic plants such as cattails, reeds and rushes that grow in shallow water), northern sedge meadows (wet, “grassy” meadows), alder thickets (made up of speckled alder and occur along streams), conifer and hardwood swamps and peatlands (peat is a soil made up of partially decomposed plants; it forms under water-soaked conditions, and has very few nutrients or minerals)
Remember to dress for wet conditions when you go exploring. Wear boots or old sneakers, and dress in old clothes. Don’t forget insect repellent. Wetlands are breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other biting insects. Bring an underwater viewer with you, a net, and something to bring home water samples, frogs’ eggs and animals in. In the heat of the day, many creatures are still, so stake out the area in daylight, and return at dusk or early the next morning. Be careful wading through the water — the depth can be deceiving.
[Image: Courtesy of North Central Research Station]