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Wetlands in the District

<<Back to Wetlands Mapping Project man page

Wetlands have many common names such as bogs, swamps, marshes, bayous, and fens. By the US Army Corps of Engineers definition, wetlands are areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Although some wetlands are easily recognizable, because they have water year-round, some wetlands are only seasonally wet and more difficult to identify.

Wetlands are the link between land and water that often contain characteristics of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. They are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Wetlands provide many functions that benefit people and wildlife including:

  • habitat for a vast variety of wildlife and plants,
  • flood protection,
  • filter, clean, and store water,
  • shoreline erosion control,
  • absorb wind forces,
  • sequestration of pollution from runoff,
  • sediment control,
  • groundwater recharge, and
  • provide recreational areas and places of beauty.

Wetlands are the primary habitat used by the majority of species selected for vulnerability consideration in the District’s 2015 Wildlife Action Plan. Protection and restoration of the District’s wetlands is vital to the health of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.

Once a major feature of the landscape, wetlands within the District are now scattered in fragmented patches along the banks of the Anacostia River, Potomac River, and within isolated stream valleys.  For more read the history of wetlands in the District.