Happy World Wetlands Day

By Heather Preston,  Director, Water Quality Division, SCDHEC – Bureau of Water

February 2 is World Wetlands Day, and it’s a great day to learn about South Carolina’s beautiful wetlands and their importance. The state’s vibrant marshes and wonder-filled swamps are not only a natural heritage attraction for visitors, but they also play a critical role in ensuring a healthy watershed and environment.

There are approximately 4.1 million acres of wetlands in South Carolina according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Wetlands are vegetated aquatic ecosystems that include areas such as Carolina bays, marshes and swamps.

Wetlands support the state’s economy by providing outdoor recreation opportunities and habitat for wildlife popular with hunters and fisherman such as waterfowl, fish and shellfish. Wetlands are also home to reptiles and amphibian populations as well as rare aquatic plants.

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An American alligator swims lazily through lily pads in a wetland buffer area.

In addition to supporting recreation and wildlife, the watery environs provide safety and health benefits to communities in the state by reducing flooding, cleaning and replenishing water supplies.

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DHEC Wetland Program employee Rusty Wenerick conducting research for a national wetland quality study.

One of South Carolina’s treasured wetlands is Francis Beidler Forest – a nationally and internationally recognized old growth swamp. It is a Ramsar Wetland of International Significance and contains South Carolina’s oldest confirmed Bald Cypress tree and the second oldest Bald Cypress in the world.

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Francis Beidler Forest

If you haven’t visited a wetland area, make plans to get outside and explore these natural wonders.

For more information on DHEC’s water quality program, visit www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/Water/.

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