The Role of Wetlands in Mitigating Flooding

Approximately 50% of the world’s wetlands have been diminished and the remaining percentage are filled, dredged, or drained due to human activities such as agricultural, industrial, or commercial use in the United States of America (Ogawa & Male, 1986).  To encourage improvement and thus benefit society as a whole we need to preserve and restore wetlands. Wetlands significantly aid in water regulation and flood control. They are beneficial due to their ability to store an adequate amount of water. During a flood that occurred in Mississippi, the Mississippi River was able to store up to 60 days of floodwater, and unfortunately due to draining, water was currently stored for an approximation of only 12 days (Ming, Xian-guo, Lin-shu, Li-juan, & Shouzheng, 2007).


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Wetlands are advantageous due to their capability to hold water in order to help manage flooding. Examples of wetlands include swamps and marshes, as well as coral reefs in the coastal areas. These areas act as sponges to mitigate flooding. They serve a vital role in our environment on a global scale. Wetlands reduce the accumulation of flood water and in this process, decrease soil erosion by halting sediment flow. As a result of this, wetlands provide retention of soil within an ecosystem (Costanza et al., 1997). They have a great capacity to hold harmful pollutants as well (Ming et al., 2007).


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Wetlands not only prevents flooding but also protect crops from accumulating water in the soil which is known as waterlogging. They also prevent droughts and in turn improve water quality. Water quality is improved by removing nitrates via denitrification (Mitsch & Gossilink, 2000). Plants absorb more water in their roots in the presence of wetlands thus increasing the rate of transpiration (Mitsch & Gossilink, 2000). Wetlands that are natural and unregulated are not sufficient in controlling floods (Wang, Qin, Li, Wei, & Shen, 2010). Meanwhile, they do play an important part in regulation and flood control.

If we effectively manage the loss and degradation of wetlands today, we can help prevent the detrimental effects of flooding. We can also help save species that depend on wetlands to survive. For example, waterbirds are declining since the degradation of wetlands directly affect them (Ma, Cai, Li, & Chen, 2010). Cohesive knowledge on the entire ecosystem is necessary for the management of wetlands. When discussing the improvement of habitat quality of wetlands, it is essential to consider several spatial scales, temporal variability, and trade-offs for the future.


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Further research should be done on wetlands to allow more management to be in effect. Firstly, studies should be done on actual wetlands rather than simulating wetlands. Secondly, wetland management only focus on a few habitat variables but should also include all variables like food, vegetation, water depth, topography, water level fluctuation, salinity and the availability of food and resources (Ma, Cai, Li, & Chen, 2010). Lastly, we extensively have knowledge on how to mitigate flooding through the use of wetlands but we do not practice the techniques that we propose.  All in all, wetland control, management and restoration should be a priority when discussing flood mitigation methods as they play a huge role in our global water cycle.


Costanza, R., Arge, R., Groot, R. De, Farberk, S., Grasso, M., Hannon, B., … van den Belt, M. (1997). The value of the world ’ s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature, 387(May), 253–260.

Ma, Z., Cai, Y., Li, B., & Chen, J. (2010). Managing wetland habitats for waterbirds: An international perspective. Wetlands, 30(1), 15–27.

Ming, J., Xian-guo, L., Lin-shu, X., Li-juan, C., & Shouzheng, T. (2007). Flood mitigation benefit of wetland soil – A case study in Momoge National Nature Reserve in China. Ecological Economics, 61(2–3), 217–223.

Mitsch, W. J., & Gossilink, J. G. (2000). The value of wetlands: Importance of scale and landscape setting. Ecological Economics, 35(1), 25–33.

Ogawa, H., & Male, J. W. (1986). Simulating the Flood Mitigation Role of Wetlands. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 112(1), 114–128.


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