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Wetlands are places were plants and animals live amid standing water or saturated soils. They are sometimes called swamps, sloughs, potholes, marshes, bogs, fens, seeps, oxbows, shallow ponds or wet meadows. The variety in names gives an insight into the vast varieties of unique characteristics in Iowa wetlands.
Iowa wetlands once dotted across the vast prairie grasslands, open savannahs, and thick woodlands. But Iowa’s landscape has undergone a lot of changes over the past 150 years. The prairies, woodlands and wetlands have all been greatly reduced, and largely replaced by farms, towns, industries, and roads. In a brief period of time nearly all of Iowa’s wetlands were destroyed. Wetlands are among the most diverse of all natural communities in Iowa. Plants and animals fill every wetland niche. Wetlands also serve as important regulators of the environment by filtering sediment and organic waste from runoff and lessening impacts of floods or droughts.
Approximately four million acres of wetlands once existed in Iowa. Over time Iowa’s wetlands were reduced to about 26,000 acres. People are now realizing the importance of wetland habitats. Concerned agencies, groups and individuals have worked to stop the destruction of wetlands in Iowa, and have restored more than 100,000 acres of wetlands.
This information was provided by the Iowa Association of Naturalists in the Iowa’s Biological Communities Series, Iowa Wetlands (IAN-204).