Like the name implies, wetlands are basically lands that are wet. To be classified as a wetland, an area must meet one or more of the following criteria. It must support hydrophytes - plants adapted to wet soil conditions, contain saturated soils, have a water table near the surface, or be covered by shallow water at some time during the growing season of every year. Wetlands come in many different forms — from marshes and wooded swamps to shallow ponds and shorelines of lakes and rivers. Although generally found in low areas wetlands can even occur on hillsides where groundwater seeps onto the land’s surface.
Formerly regarded as wastelands, wetlands are now recognized for their many benefits. Wetlands function to filter rainwater thus improve water quality. They retain water and release it more slowly - reducing flooding and maintaining stream flow during dry periods. A great diversity of wildlife and fish rely upon the water and plant communities of wetlands for habitat. Wetlands are an integral part of the water cycle and earth’s overall ecology.
Wetlands are Protected
Essentially all wetlands are protected by federal, state, and local laws. Activities that impact wetlands such as filling and excavating are generally not allowed or require permits.
Many wetland areas across North America have been intentionally drained or filled to support agricultural activities and other developments. These areas still contain wetland soils but lack the hydrology and plant communities.
Restoration efforts begin with restoring the natural hydrology - returning the water to the land.
Hydrology is restored by filling ditches and breaking drain tiles that drained the wetland area. Shallow ponds, often referred to as "scrapes," are incorporated into the restoration design to provide a more permanent water feature to the wetland.
Restoration also involves the reestablishment of a native wetland plant community. This includes seeding the area with a diversity of grasses, sedges, rushes, and forbs. Trees and shrubs are planted in areas being restored to wet woodlands.
Many of the wetlands located in Muskego are of low ecological quality and species diversity due to hydrology changes, continued agricultural use, sedimentation, loss of native flora, and competition from invasive species. Improved land practices in the watershed and implementation of restoration projects are improving the quality of these wetlands. Badertscher Preserve, Engel Conservation Area and Candlewood Outlots contain extensive areas of restored wetlands.
Commonly Found Invasive Species
Reed Canary Grass