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Conserving NL's Special Places

Newfoundland and Labrador is home to many important and sensitive wildlife habitats. The iconic puffin, the fish that swim our rivers, and the shorebirds that visit our coastlines each fall are just some of the things that make our biodiversity special. As a central part of SAM's mission we work to identify, prioritize and conserve the land areas of the province that support important biodiversity and are important to us culturally. We seek, in partnership with our municipal members, to find a balance between preservation of biodiversity values and economic and social development opportunities. We also recognize that there are many ways that these lands can be effectively conserved and so we actively seek to share our findings with other people and groups who share our vision.

Purple sandpipers are a unique and hardy bird that breed in the tundra and winter along our coastlines.

Our tidal wetlands are important for biodiversity, mitigating climate change, and supporting bird populations. 


Much of SAM's history surrounds identifying, mapping and conserving important wetlands across the province, in particular those found within municipal boundaries. We have created extensive map inventories of these significant wetlands and contributed our knowledge to support provincial land management policy.

But what is a wetland? How can we identify these special places in our communities? 

Wetlands are just that - wet land! They are areas of land that are either permanently or seasonally covered by water. The wetlands in our province are diverse and can be divided into 5 different classifications: Bog, Fen, Marsh, Pond (Shallow Open Water), and Swamp. Hover over the photos below to see if you can identify our common wetland types.



Bogs are a special kind of wetland known as a Peatland. Peat is made up of slowly decaying plant material, including sphagnum moss. This materials holds carbon from being released into our atmosphere. Peatlands cover only 3% of the worlds land area but they hold 30% of the terrestrial carbon! Bogs received their water exclusively from rainfall and snow melt.  They support a wide variety of plants, animals and insects.In NL many people refer to bogs as
a "Mesh" or "Marsh"


Fens are also peatlands, and are made up of many of the same decaying vegetation as bogs. Fens can have a higher diversity of plant life because they will have a source of fresh water associated with them, like a pond, stream or ground water. To be classified as a bog or fen, the peat need to be 40 cm deep. It takes about 1000 years to have 1.5 m of peat. Many of the peatlands in NL were formed over 15,000 years.    


These wetlands can often be found in the transition between ponds and shorelines. These wetlands are the most ecologically diverse and are excellent at controlling flooding. They are also important habitat for waterfowl, beavers, moose and muskrat. Marshes are different from ponds because they will have emergent vegetation like cattails and bulrushes covering more than 25% of the open water. 

Open Water

Open water wetlands can be shallow open water, ponds or mudflats. These wetlands will have a water depth of less than 2 m, making them too deep for emergent vegetation to establish, although you may find bullhead lilies along the edges of nutrient rich ponds. Usually this type of wetland will have permanent water that will fluctuate from season to season. Water sources for ponds can be precipitation, run-off, groundwater and streams.


Swamps are a common, but diverse group of wetlands. They are often found between the transition of a upland forest and other wetland areas. They contain raised areas of hummocks and also pools of water and are either treed or shrubby. Swamps are able to slow water flow during floods and protect shorelines from erosion and sedimentation. They also provide habitat for many types of wildlife including waterfowl, songbirds, and large mammals. 

Wetland Resources


NL Wetland Wildlife Guide: A species list of some of the common wildlife in the Wetlands of NL

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