This May marks the 21st anniversary of American Wetlands Month! Wetlands are the transitional areas between land and water that are defined based on their soil and vegetation type. All wetlands are dominated by hydrophytes, which are plants that are adapted for life in wet soils. Wetlands also have hydric soils, which are soils that are periodically saturated or flooded.
Did you know that two major groups of wetlands are found in the Chesapeake Bay watershed? It’s true! In this region, we have estuarine and palustrine wetlands. Estuarine wetlands are tidally-flooded and range in salinity from fresh to salt water. Estuarine wetlands include the marshes found mainly along the shore of the Chesapeake Bay and tidal portions of rivers. Palustrine (non-tidal) wetlands are freshwater bogs, marshes, and swamps bordering streams and rivers, filling isolated depressions and fringing lakes and ponds.
Wetlands provide many significant benefits for fish, wildlife, and people. Not only do they provide important habitat for fish and wildlife, their unique natural characteristics include floodwater and stormwater storage, coastal protection, and increased water storage and supply. Wetlands can also help protect and improve water quality, an important factor in Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts.
American Wetlands Month is a time to celebrate the important role wetlands play in our Nation’s ecological, environmental, and socio-economic health. It is also a great time to inspire a better understanding of these vitally important ecosystems. Bay Backpack’s Teacher Resource page includes Wetlands as a “keyword” and provides a wide variety of lesson plans and activities that you can use in your classroom to participate in American Wetlands Month. Here are some featured resources that can help you plan your wetland-related educational activities:
- American Wetlands Month website – This EPA website provides some great information about why we celebrate American Wetlands Month, including the history of American Wetlands Month, 2012 events, and information about wetlands.
- Chesapeake Bay Program Field Guide – Wetlands and Marshes – Do you want your students to learn about some of the plants and animals that live in wetlands? This extensive, online recourse was created and is managed by Chesapeake Bay Program. It is a great tool, and is searchable by habitat or critter!
- The Fragile Fringe – This free USGS website acts as a guide for teaching about coastal wetlands. The information and activities that are provided can be revised to accommodate different learning levels of students.
- Why Teach About Wetlands? – This Bay Backpack blog will fill you in! It provides some basic information on wetlands in the Chesapeake Bay, and information on why and how you can teach about them.
- WOW the Wonder of Wetlands – This instruction guide for educators provides a wealth of curricular materials to help you teach about wetlands. It has been recommended by the National Science Teacher’s Association, and is available for purchase on Environmental Concerns website,
- Teaching about Wetlands Flyer – The EPA produced this flyer to briefly explain why wetlands are important, why you should teach about them, and how you can teach about them.