Wetlands have probably been the most misunderstood and transformed landscape in the country. They were feared as a source of diseases, can be difficult to traverse and have been used as hideouts by notorious people. The area of wetlands that have been lost through conversion to other land uses is staggering.
There are several general categories of wetlands landforms:
- Marshes : dominated by soft-stemmed vegetation, typically grasses and sedges, and include much of the Everglades and prairie potholes
- Swamps : comprised primarily of woody vegetation and include areas in southern Illinois and the Missouri Bootheel like the Cypress woodlands below
- Bogs: are a succession stage of a lake that are identified by high acidity, low nutrient content, and usually contain peat deposits
- Fens: are fed by surface runoff or groundwater with neutral to alkaline water content.
The distance from their water source differentiates wetlands with varying plant and animal types. The cross section below provides a general view of this elevation and lateral changes in ecosystems within coastal wetlands.
A large portion of the U.S. wetlands are located along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers with significant areas within and along the border of Missouri.