Consumnes Preserve Egrets
 
© The Nature Conservancy (Mary Ann Griggs)

WETLANDS

Wetlands are lands submerged seasonally or year-round where plants have adapted to grow in shallow water or saturated soils.

Wetlands occur in coastal areas or inland and can be fresh, brackish (somewhat saline), or saline. Examples include mountain meadows, marshes and swamps, among others. Wetlands are highly productive and support a wide range of aquatic organisms including mammals, fish, birds, invertebrates, and plants. Wetlands clean water, help protect communities from flooding, remove carbon from the atmosphere, and stabilize shorelines. In addition to these benefits, people also enjoy recreational activities such as bird watching, boating, fishing and hunting in wetland areas.

Wetlands receiving water from groundwater tend to stay wet longer throughout the year than those fed only by surface water. However, when groundwater levels are lowered, the connection to the wetland can be lost, causing water to become unavailable, and these valuable natural habitats to be lost.

California map with wetlands photos

Consequences of Intensive Pumping

  • Plants and animals that depend on wetlands lose the water and habitat they need to survive and can die.
  • Migratory birds and other animals lose a necessary water, shelter, and feeding source, disrupting large-scale animal movements such as those on the Pacific Flyway.
  • Water quality deteriorates.
  • Hunting, fishing, birding, boating, and other recreational opportunities are lost.
  • Availability of water for human use decreases, negatively affecting domestic, industrial, and agricultural uses.

Did you know?

93%
of native wetlands in California’s Central Valley have already been lost to land use changes, water diversions, unregulated groundwater pumping, and climate change.