Home HowStuffWorks “How Wetlands Work”

HowStuffWorks “How Wetlands Work”


What’s the difference between a wetland and a watershed? Well, you’re probably not sitting in a wetland right now (unless you’ve got a really good wireless connection!), but you’re definitely sitting in a watershed. A watershed is an area that drains to a common waterway, like a creek or stream — which then drains to a larger body of water, like the ocean.

Wetlands provide a link between watershed and water. Wetlands filter the water running into the stream, river or ocean, cleaning it of toxins that could cause pollution in major waterways.

Since wetlands are so common and found almost everywhere, why is wetland preservation such a big deal? Actually, up until the mid-1980s, it wasn’t. Wetlands were viewed as wild areas that needed to be controlled. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in particular, spent a lot of time draining wetlands for future development or agriculture. In fact, since European settlers first arrived in what would become the United States, U.S. wetland area has declined from 220 million acres to 105.5 million acres [source: Zinn]. That’s a 50 percent loss.

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