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What is a Wetland?

Throughout the watershed of Crum Creek and its tributaries there are wetlands. These are areas where groundwater and/or surface water from flooding or rainfall accumulates and lingers for periods of time during the year. Essentially sponges, they are commonly called swamps, bogs, fens, floodways, flood plains or wet meadows. Typically they contain standing water, anaerobic soils, and specially adapted plants that can manage in this environment. Because their soil is saturated with water for long periods they are called, collectively, wetlands.

Whether in forests, meadows, or mixed areas, wetlands are extremely important to local ecological health. They support masses of plant material that produce rich diversity of vegetation. That, in turn, provides nesting habitat for birds and water fowl, nurseries for fish and amphibians, and sustenance for wildlife animals. For humans, wetlands help control flood waters, filter pollutants from water to promote water quality, recharge aquifers, and provide stunning natural beauty.

Because they play a valuable role in the natural ecology of the region and benefit both wildlife and human communities, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has regulations to protect wetlands. If you suspect there is a wetland on your property, do not disturb it. Consult with a professional landscape ecology expert, the PA DEP office (484-250-5900) or the Delaware County Conservation District (610-892-9484) for information on how to manage it.

Do I have a wetland on my property?
Wetlands are not always near creeks and streams. They exist in wooded areas, fields, and even lawn and garden areas of home landscapes. It is important to identify these areas because the DEP can help you protect them. As you explore your property, look for these wetland clues:

· Nearby open body of water such as a natural pond, stream, lake or reservoir.
· Any permanent or temporary natural drainage channels— a ditch, swale or erosion site.
· Soggy or spongy areas of ground underfoot, even during the growing season.
· Low spots or depressions where there is standing water for more than seven days.
· A spring or seep.
· Areas where you dare not drive a vehicle for fear of getting stuck.
· Evidence of ditching or tiling to encourage soil moisture to dry out.
· Plants with roots growing on their stems above the soil line
· Tree trunks that are swollen at the base.
· Trees that are fallen over, exposing an extensive, but shallow root system.
· Area where fallen leaves turn gray or blackish.
· A layer of dark brown organic matter of two or more inches on the soil.
· Wet soil areas that smell like rotten eggs with water that looks greasy on the surface.
· Woody plants such as blueberry, shrub dogwoods, alder, buttonbush or spicebush, willows, red or silver maples, ash, box elders, sycamore, black gum.
· Herbaceous plants such as cattails, sedges, arrowheads, Joe pyeweed, jewelweed, rushes, sensitive fern, ironweed or skunk cabbage.

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