The state of wetlands

Minnesota's 10.6 million acres of wetlands serve critical functions, such as providing wildlife habitat, filtering pollutants and sediment out of water, and lessening the threat of floods by storing water during snow melt and rain storms.

Overall conditions

  • The quality of the state’s wetlands is good overall. Natural vegetation can be found in 67% of wetlands, mostly because of the large amount of high quality wetlands in the northern region.
  • Wetland quality in more developed parts of the state is largely degraded.
  • A slight gain in wetland acreage between 2006 and 2011 is a good sign; wetland loss is a primary concern. However, most of the gains came in the form of pond-like wetlands and the conversion of natural wetlands to cultivated, both of which typically lack the vegetation that provides good wildlife habitat.

North-northeastern region and the Arrowhead

Original wetlands

About 75% of all of Minnesota’s wetlands are in this region, including more than 90% of the wetland acres that existed before Europeans settled here. Intact wetlands contribute to the good water quality found in the area.

Good vegetation

Approximately 84% of the region's wetlands have high-quality, natural vegetation.

Central region and metro area

Invasive species

Non-native invasive plant species have taken hold or other significant changes in vegetation have occurred in 82% of the wetlands in this region.

Many stresses

Non-native invasive plant species that tend to force native plants out are the leading cause of wetland degradation. Increases in non-native invasives has been linked with human activities, including urban development and agriculture.

Southern and western Minnesota

Lost wetlands

Counties in this region have lost an average of 95% of their wetlands due to artificial drainage and agricultural development. This has contributed to the impaired water quality in streams and lakes in the region

Invasive species

Non-native invasive plant species have taken hold or other significant changes in vegetation have occurred in 82% of the wetlands in this region., similar to the central part of the state.

A map of Minnesota divided into 3 different blue areas to represent 3 biological regions

Wetlands: Critical to watersheds

Wetlands are highly interconnected with lakes, streams, and groundwater, providing water for streams and supporting flow through gradual release of water. Wetlands can remove excess sediment and nitrogen from water, though they may become overwhelmed and degraded in the process. Losing wetlands to urban development, agriculture, or other activities, or overloading them, can contribute to water quality problems in other parts of watersheds.

Diagram showing how wetlands slow water down and filter sediment and contaminants to clean water before it flows into streams