Value of Wetlands

Wetlands provide an array of valuable “services” for society and the environment. Besides sustaining a huge number of plant and animal species, they can improve water quality; reduce erosion and flooding; and even moderate the effects of climate change. Not to mention they’re often beautiful places for people to hike, paddle, birdwatch, and otherwise enjoy the outdoors. Looked at from the perspective of what they do, the value of wetlands becomes quite tangible and in some cases quantifiable.

For the past two centuries, the value of wetlands has been little regarded as they have been drained, leveed, channelized, or destroyed in other ways to make way for farms, homes, cities, and industry. Significant loss of wetland ecosystems has resulted in the decline of many species, worsening water quality including “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere, more flood damage, and other costly problems. By restoring the Midwest’s lost wetlands, it is possible to reverse these trends and even stimulate markets for their valuable ecosystem services.