Wetlands are areas where water is the primary factor controlling the environment and associated plant and animal life. They can be freshwater or estuarine (located at the coast with brackish water) or both!
Wetlands are where the water table is at or near the surface of the land, or where the land is permanently or temporarily (as with the tides) covered by water. Although once thought of as mosquito-filled swamps or bogs, wetlands actually perform many valuable functions.
Wetlands act like the kidneys of the earth, cleaning the water that flows into them. They trap sediment and soils, filter out nutrients and remove contaminants; can reduce flooding and protect coastal land from storm surge; are important for maintaining water tables; they also return nitrogen to the atmosphere.
In the past, those soggy areas of land were often drained and 'put to better use' but now we know they are essential and one of the world's most productive environments. In New Zealand they support the greatest concentration of wildlife out of any other habitat.
Human activity provides most threats to New Zealand's remaining wetlands. Threats include:
Estuaries are special places where rivers meet the sea. Each one is unique, ranging from small lagoons to extensive wetland harbour systems.
This community resource will help you explore and learn more about our many estuaries.
Celebrate World Wetlands Day on 2 February to raise awareness of wetlands.