Freshwater Ecosystems

Kelly's Pond

Photo Credits: Winston Maud

Freshwater ecosystems, comprising streams, rivers, wetlands, and interconnected environments, host a diverse array of life. These ecosystems encompass a variety of habitats, with wetlands ranging from small roadside marshes to multi-hectare bogs. On Prince Edward Island (PEI), freshwater wetlands and ponds are defined as areas regularly submerged or saturated with water for most or all of the year. It's important to note that 40% of the world's species rely on freshwater wetlands for survival, underscoring the critical need for preservation. Canada stands out as the custodian of the largest proportion of wetlands globally, covering a substantial 25% of these essential ecosystems.

 Did you know?

Although readily available freshwater only makes up 1% of Earth's surface, freshwater ecosystems host to a whopping 10% of all species, and 35% of vertebrate species!

Photo: USGS

Wetlands develop in low-lying areas, often near streams and rivers. In Stratford, most of the ponds and their respective marsh areas are small in size, however that does not decrease their impacts. Swamps, fens and bogs have historically been found in abundance on Prince Edward Island however trends show a decrease in recent years. These areas are in need of protection and preservation as new developments put them at risk. 

Freshwater ecosystems also hold cultural significance, are popular recreational spaces, and support important fish species. Despite the importance of these habitats, riparian zones and freshwater ecosystems are at an extreme risk of being degraded or lost altogether. 

Threats to Freshwater Ecosystems

What's a Riparian Zone?

A riparian zone is the strip of land and vegetation immediately adjacent to a body of freshwater.  This unique ecosystem is a hotspot for biodiversity, and connects terrestrial and aquatic environments to each other.

Despite their narrow range, riparian zones have a disproportionately high ecological role, and influence far beyond their immediate area.

Riparian zones play a critical role in:


If you own land with a buffer zone on it, it's important to keep it in top physical condition to get the most out of your riparian zone!

Interpretive Sign: Freshwater Ecosystems & Riparian Zones

Thank you to Environment and Climate Change Canada for contributing funding and support for this project!

Click HERE to view all of our interpretive signs.

How YOU Can Help Protect These Ecosystems?


Department of Environment, Energy and Forestry (1998). PEI Wetland Notes: Freshwater Wetlands. Retrieved from

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Vári, Á., Podschun, S.A., Erös, T., Hein, T., Pataki, B., Iojâ, I., Adamescu, C.M., Gerhardt, A., Gruber, T., Dedić, A., Ćirić, M., Gavrilović, B., & Báldi, A. (2022). Freshwater systems and ecosystem services: Challenges and chances for cross-fertilization of disciplines. AMBIO, 51, 135-151.

World Wildlife Fund. (n.d.). For all of Earth’s inhabitants - Water is life.

Strayer, D.L., & Dudgeon, D. (2010). Freshwater biodiversity conservation: Recent progress and future challenges. The North American Benthological Society, 29, 344-358.

Prince Edward Island. (2016, August). Watercourse, Wetland and Buffer Zone Activity Guidelines. Department of Communities, Land and Environment.

González, E., Felipe-Lucia, M.R., Bourgeois, B., Boz, B., Nilsson, C., Palmer, G., & Sher, A.A. (2017). Integrative conservation of riparian zones. Biological Conservation, 211, 20-29.