Local Ecosystems

What are Wetlands?
Wetlands are areas where water is present at, near, or on the surface of soil. These are places where land and water bodies meet. They often look like flooded grassy areas. Some wetlands are very wet year round, while others are seasonal, going through cycles of very wet and dryer points. All of this water leads to the growth of species that are specially adapted for these very wet conditions, creating a very unique habitat. Wetlands are very critical habitat for many species, particularly those that use them as breeding grounds and as food sources. Wetlands also provide many benefits to humans as well.
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Where are wetlands found?
Wetlands are found from the tundra to the tropics and on every continent except Antarctica. There are all different kinds of wetlands including tidal wetlands, bogs, fens, marshes, prairie potholes, playa lakes, vernal pools and swamps. They cover an area on the globe that is 33% larger than the United States.

For more information on Wetlands, please see the Benefits of Wetlands page.
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What are Prairies?
Prairies are ecosystems comprised temperate climates, moderate rainfall, and a composition of grasses, herbs, and shrubs as the main vegetation type instead of trees. They are also characterized by the use of fire to maintain and contribute to the health of prairie. The Prairies in the North America were formed more than 110,000 years ago by the glaciers scraping across the landscape, leveling the terrain and depositing til upon their retreat.
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Where are Prairies Found?
Prairies are unique to North America, though they are similar to other temperate grasslands and savannahs across the world. Only 1% of the original prairie remains. The original prairie stretched from Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba Canada, down through the Great Plains of the United States to Mexico and from western Indiana all the way to the Rocky Mountains. The whole thing covered approximately 1.4 million square miles at its peak.
Why are Prairies Important?
Many prairie plants and animals are very rare or endangered because so little of their native habitat remains. In order to save these species, some prairie land will have to be restored. Prairies are also known to have very good soil, great for growing crops. This is one of the reason so much of the prairie has disappeared as much of it has been turned into cropland throughout the Midwest.