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Conservation Choices: Wetland

Wetland Header

Wetland PhotoWhat it is

A marshy area with saturated soils and water-loving plants. Natural wetlands— swamps, bogs, sloughs, potholes and marshes—vary in size, shape and type. Sloughs, potholes and marshes in low-lying areas are most common in Iowa.

A wetland may have standing water year-round or may hold surface water for only part of the year.

Through NRCS assistance, wetlands can be created, enhanced or restored. In most cases the land must be suitable for wetland and wildlife benefits.

How it helps

  • Provide habitat for pollinators, fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species.
  • Improve water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals.
  • Reduce soil erosion and downstream flooding.
  • Recharge groundwater supplies.
  • Protect biological diversity.
  • Provide opportunities for educational, scientific and recreational opportunities.
  • Generate farm income through programs that offer financial incentives for restoring wetlands.

Planning ahead

  • Are the soils, hydrology, vegetative conditions, and adjacent landscape conducive to wetlands?
  • Will there be any adverse affects on adjacent landowners?
  • What type of vegetation do you want in your wetland?
  • What wildlife do you want to attract to your wetland?
  • Consider providing vegetation, such as milkweed, to encourage pollinators.

Tech Notes

Four categories of wetlands are found in Iowa:

  • Fens - perched wetlands that form in upland areas. They are fed by cool, mineral rich, oxygen poor groundwater. This promotes the formation of a peat soil that may be many feet thick, often floating on a bed of water.
  • Forested Wetlands - dominated by trees and shrubs, such as cottonwood, willow, ash, elm and sycamore that tolerate wet soils.
  • Emergent Wetlands - dominated by plants adapted to grow in water, such as cattail, arrowhead and bulrushes.
  • Wet Meadows - created and maintained by periodic inundation of low-lying areas and by soils that are temporarily to seasonally saturated.

Iowa Practice Standards

Nabbing Nitrates Before Water Leaves the Farm: Working Wetlands