"Wetlands" is the collective term for marshes, swamps, bogs, and similar areas, like those found within the landscape of Paynes Prairie. Wetlands are found in flat vegetated areas, in depressions on the landscape, and between water and dry land along the edges of streams, rivers, lakes, and coastlines.
Wetlands help maintain and improve the water quality of our nation's streams, rivers, lakes, and estuaries. Since wetlands are located between uplands and water resources, many can intercept runoff from the land before it reaches open water. As runoff and surface water pass through, wetlands remove or transform pollutants through physical, chemical, and biological processes.
In their natural state, wetlands perform ecological functions that are vitally important to the environment and economic health of the nation and impossible or costly to replace. Nevertheless, wetlands historically have been viewed as mosquito-ridden wastelands and impediments to development because of their saturated and frequently flooded conditions. The importance of wetlands to fish and wildlife, clean water, and flood control has gone largely unappreciated as draining and filling operations have destroyed more than 50% of wetlands nationwide.
Loss and degradation of Florida's wetlands and their associated functions have contributed to problems, such as flooding, poor water quality, and habitat loss. In recent decades, a number of federal, state, and local government programs have been developed for preserving wetlands. Although the rate of loss has slowed markedly, both conservation and regulatory approaches typically have not been effective in preventing continued, large and small-scale losses and degradation.
Good planning and design are the best approaches to reduce or eliminate many of these adverse effects on wetlands. Of course, the best approach is to avoid wetlands in the first place. However, if that is not possible, regulatory programs at the federal, state, regional, and local levels have been established to review these kinds of activities and to prevent or minimize damage to wetlands or water quality.
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