Wetlands (swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas) are areas saturated by surface or ground water sufficient to support distinctive vegetation adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands serve as natural habitat for many species of plants and animals and absorb the forces of flood and tidal erosion to prevent loss of upland soil.
In New York State, two main types of wetlands are the focus of protection: tidal wetlands around Long Island, New York City and up the Hudson River all the way to Troy Dam; and freshwater wetlands found on river and lake floodplains across the state.
This website provides information about:
- The status of New York's tidal and freshwater wetlands, and trends in the extent of wetlands in the state
- The state Freshwater Wetlands Act and how DEC regulates wetlands, including wetlands mapping
- Wetlands conservation and restoration
Why Are Wetlands Valuable?
Wetlands are known by many names, such as marshes, swamps, bogs, and wet meadows. Wetlands are transition areas between uplands and aquatic habitats. Standing water is only one clue that a wetland may be present. Many wetlands only have visible water during certain seasons of the year. For many years, people did not recognize the many diverse benefits and values of wetlands. Consequently, New York has lost almost half of its historic wetlands to such activities as filling and draining. However, wetlands are valuable to the people and environment of New York State. Some of the functions and benefits that wetlands perform include:
Flood and Storm Water Control
Wetlands provide critical flood and stormwater control functions. They absorb, store, and slow down the movement of rain and melt water, minimizing flooding and stabilizing water flow.
Surface and Groundwater Protection
Wetlands often serve as groundwater discharge sites; maintaining base flow in streams and rivers; and supporting ponds and lakes. In some places, wetlands are very important in recharging groundwater supplies. Wetlands also improve water quality by absorbing pollutants and reducing turbidity.
Wetlands slow water velocity and filter sediments, protecting streams, lakes, reservoirs and navigational channels. They also buffer shorelines and agricultural soils from water erosion.
Pollution Treatment and Nutrient Cycling
Wetlands cleanse water by filtering out natural and many manmade pollutants, which are then broken down or immobilized. In wetlands, organic materials are also broken down and recycled back into the environment, where they support the food chain.
Fish and Wildlife Habitat
Wetlands are one of the most productive habitats for feeding, nesting, spawning, resting and cover for fish and wildlife, including many rare and endangered species.
Wetlands provide areas for recreation, education and research. They also provide valuable open space, especially in developing areas where they may be the only green space remaining.