Wetlands are among the most diverse and productive ecosystems in the world.
In terms of number and diversity of species supported, they compete with
tropical rainforests and coral reefs. In terms of
primary production rates, wetlands have no rival. The unique
hydrology of wetlands allows them to serve as nurturing havens for a wide
range of highly specialized and environmentally sensitive species (Mitsch
and Gosselink 1986).
There are many plant species that are dependent upon wetland hydrology
for their survival. In Illinois, approximately 42 percent of all the native
plant species are wetland species (Illinois Department of Natural Resources
1994). There are also are a number of plant species usually associated
with upland areas that can survive in wetlands. The USF&WS has identified
a total of 6,728 species of plants that occur in wetlands throughout the
United States (Reed 1988). Because
wetlands are highly productive and support a diversity of plant life,
they are an important source of food and habitat for wildlife. This productivity
helps support commercial and recreational fish and waterfowl harvests
throughout the Illinois and the rest of the world (Illinois Department
of Natural Resources 1997).
are several species of animals dependent upon wetlands for their
day to day survival. Most people readily identify some of these
animals, such as frogs and ducks, as wetland species. There are,
however, many other species of wildlife usually associated with
upland or deepwater areas that depend on or use wetlands for feeding,
spawning, and/or resting grounds at some point in their life cycles.
Most people do not readily identify these various species of shiners,
sunfish, bats, and terns with wetlands. They also do not realize
many well-known species, such as bald eagles and bobcats, are also
commonly found in and around wetlands. The following statistics
reflect the diversity of organisms that use wetlands in Illinois.
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