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Water: Wetlands

Fish and Wildlife Habitat

More than one-third of the United States' threatened and endangered species live only in wetlands, and nearly half use wetlands at some point in their lives. Many other animals and plants depend on wetlands for survival. Estuarine and marine fish and shellfish, various birds, and certain mammals must have coastal wetlands to survive. Most commercial and game fish breed and raise their young in coastal marshes and estuaries. Menhaden, flounder, sea trout, spot, croaker, and striped bass are among the more familiar fish that depend on coastal wetlands. Shrimp, oysters, clams, and blue and Dungeness crabs likewise need these wetlands for food, shelter, and breeding grounds. For many animals and plants, like wood ducks, muskrat, cattails, and swamp rose, inland wetlands are the only places they can live. Beaver may actually create their own wetlands. For others, such as striped bass, peregrine falcon, otter, black bear, raccoon, and deer, wetlands provide important food, water, or shelter. Many of the U.S. breeding bird populations-- including ducks, geese, woodpeckers, hawks, wading birds, and many song-birds-- feed, nest, and raise their young in wetlands. Migratory waterfowl use coastal and inland wetlands as resting, feeding, breeding, or nesting grounds for at least part of the year. Indeed, an international agreement to protect wetlands of international importance was developed because some species of migratory birds are completely dependent on certain wetlands and would become extinct if those wetlands were destroyed.

Reference: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1995. America's wetlands: Our vital link between land and water. Office of Water, Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds. EPA843-K-95-001.

Functions and Values of Wetlands (PDF) (2 pp, 369K)

Economic Benefits of Wetlands (PDF) (4 pp, 281K)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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