special issue wetlands

insect-eating pitcher plants in an Irish bog

Marshes, mangroves, swamps, deltas, and bogs. What do these places have in common? They’re all wetlands.

Why does our planet depend on wetlands? This issue of Explorer magazine is going to tell you. But first, let’s learn some basics.

What is a wetland? It’s land that is covered by water for at least part of the year. Wetlands are neither totally dry land nor totally underwater. The water can be saltwater, freshwater, or brackisha mixture of both.

Wetlands are on every continent except Antarctica. Some are flooded woodlands. Others, watery grasslands. Still others have thick, spongy mosses. Yet, all are their own ecosystem. And they are vital to Earth.

Wetlands act as water filters. They prevent floods and erosion. They provide homes for wildlife. They absorb pollutants before they reach rivers, lakes, and oceans.

a small marsh village in the Philippines

a mangrove forest in Brazil

Still, wetlands are under threat across the world. People are converting wetlands into cropland, pasture, and places for housing. They are dumping waste into them. Climate change is interfering, too, bringing floods and droughts.

In this issue, our National Geographic Explorers will tell you about the power of wetlands. We’ll also look at the challenges we face to protect them.

Brenna Maloney, managing editor, Explorer