Marshes, also known as wetlands, are frequently inundated (flooded) with water. Plants found in marshes such as the common cattail, lily pads, and duckweed are adapted to the saturated soil conditions. Animals commonly seen in a marsh are otters and muskrats. There are many different types of marshes including coastal, inland, fresh water, salt water, riparian, and more. Marshes get their water from surface water (rain/runoff) and ground water. Now that we have covered the basics of marshes, why are they important? Marshes act like filtration systems because the vegetation in a marsh uses up excess nutrients for growth that could otherwise pollute the water such as phosphorus and nitrogen. Marshes also help to reduce damage caused by a flood by storing and slowing the water. This is especially important when marshes are in a watershed (an area where surface water—such as rain or snow converges to a single point). Fresh water marshes tend to have a neutral pH as well which leads to an abundance of life—far more than what is expected to grow due to the sometimes minimal sizes of marshes.
Non-tidal marshes are most commonly distributed through North America. Most of these are freshwater marshes which have highly organic soil underlying the floor of the marsh. Here in La Crosse we have a marsh that separates north and south La Crosse. It is known as a riparian marsh because it occurs alongside a river (Mississippi River). It is called the La Crosse River Marsh and it is about 1,077 acres in size. It is home to many animals and plants species. Unfortunately, like many marshes today, our marsh is in risk of disappearing. Today many marshes are degraded by excessive deposits of nutrients fromspe farming and construction. They are also degraded by over flooding. There are ways to preserve marshes. This could involve the city purchasing the marsh and declaring it as land that cannot be built on, or there could be plans that prevent houses or other structures from being built near a marsh. If you live near a marsh, do your part, and protect a piece of wetland that is beneficial to so many plants and animals.
Learn more from a leader in environmental stewardship by visiting www.gundersenenvision.org.