Discovering Habitats: What Are Wetlands?

Apr 28, 2023 | General News

Wetlands are areas of land where the soil is usually covered with water for at least part of the year. They are important because they provide habitats for many different plants and animals. Like many other habitats, wetlands must be protected to ensure that many animals don’t lose their homes.

The Types of Wetlands in South Africa

South Africa has many different habitats. There are several types of wetlands in South Africa, each with its unique characteristics and ecosystem. Here are some of the main types:


Estuaries are wetlands where rivers meet the sea. They are usually brackish, meaning they have a mixture of salt and freshwater. Estuaries provide important habitats for many fish and bird species, and they are also important breeding grounds for many types of marine life.

Rivers and Streams

Rivers and streams are like big, moving water ribbons flowing across the land. They are formed when rainwater or melted snow runs downhill and collects into small channels or creeks. These creeks can then join together to create larger streams, and eventually, they may become a river. They provide a source of drinking water for people and animals.

Freshwater Marshes

Freshwater marshes are wetlands filled with grasses, rushes, and other herbaceous plants. They are usually found in shallow depressions or along the edges of lakes and rivers, providing a habitat for many bird and fish species.


Peatlands are special kinds of wetlands where many dead plants and other organic materials have built up over many years to form a thick layer of partially decomposed organic material called “peat”. They provide habitats for many different plants and animals and help store carbon and mitigate climate change.

Coastal Wetlands

Coastal wetlands are areas where the land meets the sea, and the water is usually a mix of saltwater and freshwater. They are home to many different kinds of plants and animals adapted to living in this unique environment. Some examples of coastal wetlands include salt marshes and mangrove swamps. They provide important habitats for many marine and coastal species, and they also help to protect the coastline from erosion and storm surges.

Why Are Wetlands Important?

Wetlands are important for many reasons. They provide habitat for many different species of plants and animals, including rare and endangered species. They also help to filter and clean water, prevent flooding, and store carbon. Wetlands are important for many reasons. Here are some key reasons:


Wetlands are home to many plants and animals, many of which are rare or endangered. They provide important habitats for birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals.

Water Filtration

Wetlands act like natural filters, removing pollutants and excess nutrients from the water. This helps to improve water quality and protect downstream ecosystems.

Flood Control

Wetlands can store lots of water and slowly release it over time, helping to reduce the risk of flooding and erosion.

Carbon Storage

Wetlands store large amounts of carbon, which helps to mitigate global warming by removing carbon from the atmosphere.


Wetlands provide opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, birdwatching, and fishing.

How You Can Help Protect Wetlands

There are many things kids can do to help protect wetlands! Here are some ideas:

Learn More About Wetlands

The first step to protecting wetlands is to learn about them. You can read books, watch videos, or go on field trips to learn about wetlands and the plants and animals that live there.

Reduce Your Water Usage

Wetlands need water to survive, so it’s important to conserve water whenever possible. You can turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth, take shorter showers, and use a watering can instead of a hose to water plants.

Don’t litter

Litter can harm wetlands and the animals that live there. Make sure to throw away trash in the proper place and participate in community clean-up events to help keep wetlands clean.

Plant native plants

Native plants are adapted to the local environment and can help to support the ecosystem. Planting native plants in your yard or participating in community restoration projects can help to support wetlands.

Get involved

You can get involved in local environmental groups or attend community events to learn more about wetlands and how to protect them.

Wetland FAQs

What kinds of animals live in wetlands?

Many different kinds of animals live in wetlands, including birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. Some examples include beavers, otters, herons, and alligators.

What kinds of plants grow in wetlands?

Wetlands are home to many different kinds of plants, including cattails, water lilies, and bulrushes. These plants are adapted to living in water and can help stabilise the soil and provide animal habitat.

How do wetlands help to clean water?

Wetlands act as natural filters, removing pollutants from the water as it flows through them. They can also help to reduce erosion and prevent the loss of nutrients from the soil.

How can we protect wetlands?

We can protect wetlands by conserving water, reducing pollution, and preventing habitat destruction. It’s also important to educate others about wetlands’ importance and their role in our ecosystem.

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