What is a wetland?

Put simply, a wetland is any area of land that holds water either temporarily or permanently. Many wetlands have water all-year round, whereas some are storage areas for spring melt or heavy precipitation events.

Are there different types of wetlands?

There are a variety of wetlands on PEI!  The 5 main types include:

1)      Bogs

Bogs, or peatlands, have vegetation which demonstrates a general lack of nutrients and a fairly consistently high water table. The peat moss (a cushion-y and soft plant) dominates the landscape within a bog, and are elevated from the surrounding areas.

Bogs play an important role in the ecosystem by storing large amounts of carbon; therefore, helping to curb the effects of climate change. As mentioned above, they store large amounts of water and serve as water retention for dry times.

Bogs (photo: wanderlust)

2)      Fens

Fens are also peatlands with a high water-table, but drain very slowly and are nutrient-poor. They are very similar in appearance to bogs, but they receive their water from surrounding areas. They support a large number of wildlife than bogs,

Fens help prevent downstream flooding by absorbing precipitation and run-off, and also help store large amounts of carbon.

Fens have some tree species present, such as stunted larch/tamarack, black spruce, shrubs and mosses.

Fen (photo: Ducks Unlimited)

3)      Marshes

Marshes are wetlands that, from time-to-time, are filled with standing or very slowly moving water; these regions are nutrient-rich with wet mineral soil. They are transition zones between open water and shorelines, with water from precipitation, run-off and groundwater.

Marshes are becoming less and less common, but are the most diverse type of wetland in terms of flora and fauna. They help moderate flooding and minimize soil erosion. They provide vital habitat for wildlife, and can help filter and trap contaminants.

Species present can include cattail, bulrush and sedges.

Marsh (photo: Ducks Unlimited)

4)      Swamps

Swamps are areas in which water is present seasonally or beyond; therefore, leaving the surface and sub-surface waterlogged. They are fairly common, and occur in a variety of landscapes and regions. They are found in transitional areas between upland forests and other wetlands, and have a ‘hummocky’ ground with pools of water.

They, like other wetlands, moderate water flow, and have fertile soils that support a variety of tree and shrub species.  They help protect shorelines from erosion, and are great habitat for many species of wildlife.

There are both treed swamps and shrub swamps; the treed swamps can be dominated by both hardwood and softwood species. Shrubs include willow, red-osier dogwood and alder.

Swamp (photo: Ducks Unlimited)

5)      Shallow/Open Water

These areas tend to represent wetlands, and have water depths of 2 meters of less during low-flow periods. Although fairly shallow, they are too deep for emergent vegetation, and can have a ‘lake-like’ appearance. Floating and submerged vegetation are characteristic of these wetlands.

They retain and store water, recharge the groundwater and are very productive for plants and animals.

Different types include open water, aquatic bed (25% vegetation on top of the water), or mudflats.

Open Water Wetland (photo: Maine.gov)


Ducks Unlimited. (2013). Learn About Wetlands. Retrieved from http://www.ducks.ca/learn-about-wetlands/what-wetland/  

Government of Prince Edward Island. (2008). PEI Wetland Notes. Retrieved from http://www.gov.pe.ca/photos/original/eef_wildlife_p6.pdf

Wanderlust. (2019). 7 of the most beautiful bogs around the world. Retrieved from https://www.wanderlust.co.uk/content/beautiful-bogs-around-the-world/