Contributor: Samantha Penna. Lesson ID: 11290

Got your boots ready? You'll need them to wade through the lesson on wetlands! What seems like a lot of mud is a very useful biome for earth and its creatures. Join Bill Nye the Science Guy and learn!



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personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
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Quick Query

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  • Can you guess why wetlands are called wetlands?

Wetlands are called wetlands because the soil there is wet most of the year!

One great way to remember this is by noticing that the word wet is in wetlands! The soil here is saturated with water year-round or seasonally!

Saturated is just another way of saying the soil holds lots of water! Wetlands are classified by their hydric soil (wet soil) and plants.

Wetlands are found on every continent except Antarctica. The reason they are not present in Antarctica is because that water would freeze, and the soil there is permanently frozen.

Some of the largest wetlands are found in South America. Wetlands have varying climates and rainfalls depending on their location.

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There are four types of wetlands:

  • marshes
  • swamps
  • bog
  • fens

Read on to learn how to identify the different types of wetlands.

  1. Download the Graphic Organizer - Bubble Map from Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar.
  2. Print four bubble maps.
  3. Label the center of each bubble map with the type of wetland you read about.
  4. Write five facts about each type of wetland.

A marsh is a type of wetland. Water covers the ground in marshes for a long period of time.

Marshes have soft-stemmed plants. The soft-stemmed plants are able to grow in the saturated (wet) soil.

Trees are rarely found in marshes. Most of the plants in marshes are types of grasses.

The plants here are called herbaceous plants. This means they don't have woody stems. The roots of herbaceous plants grow in wet soil by binding to the soil.

There are many different types of marshes.

Tidal salt marshes are found along the coastlines of oceans. Tidal freshwater marshes are found inland from the coastline near freshwater streams. Both types of tidal marshes have waves and rise and fall like the tides of the ocean.

Inland freshwater marshes are located near lakes and rivers.

  • Did you finish your marsh bubble map?

Make sure you have five facts on your bubble map.

salt marsh

salt marsh in Cedar Key, Florida

A swamp is a type of wetland that stays saturated all year round. This means the soil is always wet.

Swamps can be identified by the trees found there. Unlike marshes, swamps have many types of woody plants, including trees. There are two types of swamps: freshwater swamps and saltwater swamps.

Freshwater swamps are found around lakes and streams. Saltwater swamps are found around tropical coastlines.

  • Did you complete your swamp bubble map?

Make sure you have five facts on your bubble map.

river swamp

river swamp in Ichetucknee, Florida

Bogs are freshwater wetlands. The soil here is spongy. Bogs are found in cooler climates near lakes.

There are many different types of bogs.

  • Blanket bogs are found in hilly areas. 
  • String bogs have small islands located in them.
  • Raised bogs have decaying plants found directly in the center of the bog.
  • Cataract bogs are found by freshwater streams.
  • Valley bogs are found in valleys.
  • The last type of bog is a quaking bog. This type of bog forms over a lake. The bog layer can be over three feet deep!

Although there are many types of bogs, one way to always tell a bog from a marsh, swamp, and fen is to look at the plant life there. Bogs are almost completely covered in decaying plant life called peat.

  • Did you finish your bog bubble map?

Make sure you have five facts on your bubble map.


bog in Surrey, England

The final type of wetland is called a fen. Instead of getting their water from rainfall, fens get water from runoff and groundwater.

Fens are similar to bogs. Bogs have more peat, fens have more plant life. Fens have flowing water all year round, bogs have stagnant water.

Sometimes, fens turn into bogs when too much peat forms there.

  • Did you complete your fen bubble map?

Make sure you have five facts on your bubble map.


Réserve Naturelle des Marais de Séné in Paris

Great job!

  • Did you know there were so many different types of wetlands?

Make sure all of your bubble maps are complete. When you are ready, move on to the next section to learn more about wetlands.

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