Wetlands Overview


Data and Reports


MACWA Program

Wetlands Overview

Wetlands are areas that are saturated with water all the time or seasonally. Wetlands are often called marshes, bogs and swamps. They are found all over the world, except in Antarctica. Wetlands help provide food and homes to fish, amphibians, shellfish, insects, birds and other animals. They also clean our water by filtering out pollutants. Plus, they act as natural sponges and provide flood protection for our communities.

Delaware Estuary's Tidal Wetlands

Delaware Estuary's Tidal Wetlands

The Delaware Estuary is unique in that it has an almost continuous ring of fringing wetlands. They range from the southern sides of the bay in Cape May and Cape Henlopen up to Trenton, New Jersey. This large area is home to many types of tidally-influenced wetlands: saltwater wetlands, freshwater wetlands, and those in-between. Our tidal wetlands naturally capture lots of mud! These habitats are critical to protect against flooding, help clean water, and sustain native fish, birds and crustaceans as well as migrating species. Our tidal wetlands also help combat climate impacts change by trapping carbon and absorbing floodwaters.

Wetlands Are At Risk

Wetlands are threatened by human and environmental influences. As our cities and towns grow, new roads, schools, and housing developments are often built on or near wetlands. This sometime disturbs the flow of water into and out of the wetlands. Rising sea levels and storms are also submerging and eroding many wetlands, leading to a loss of about one acre per day, and a decrease in the health of wetlands. Unhealthy wetlands provide fewer benefits than healthy wetlands. For example, wetlands in poor health filter fewer pollutants, capture less carbon and provide less flood protection from the next storm.

Why is Monitoring Important?

Just like humans need regular doctor check-ups, monitoring allows scientists to see how healthy a wetland is and why. We want wetlands to be healthy, because healthy wetlands provide many more benefits to people and wildlife than unhealthy wetlands. The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary and other local scientists are studying the health of the wetlands by examining their plants, soil and hydrology. Then, a few wetland areas are chosen for intensive monitoring or an in-depth study. Together, data from the larger rapid studies and the repeated intensive studies provide a complete picture of the health of the wetlands. Once we have a complete picture, we can address the causes of unhealthy wetlands. Next, we can make them better at cleaning the water, reducing flooding and erosion, and protecting plants and animals.