Types of wetlands

Wetlands are areas that have been soaked with water long enough for the soil to become waterlogged. This allows water-loving or water-tolerant plants like black ash, tamarack, and bog cranberry to grow.

Wetlands are found where the water table is close to, or at the surface. They are usually in low-lying areas or along the edges of lakes and rivers.

Many wetlands are permanently flooded, while others flood only periodically in the spring or fall.

There are 4 types of wetlands in Ontario:

  • swamps, which are dominated by trees or shrubs.
  • marshes, which usually have open areas of water with floating plants, like water-lilies and emergent plants (standing above the water) like cattails.
  • bogs are peat-covered areas low in nutrient and strongly acidic.
  • fens are also often found on peat, but are less acidic and richer in nutrients than bogs.

Wetlands benefits include:

  • preventing flood damage
  • improving water quality
  • giving wildlife a home
  • providing valuable economic products like timber and furbearers, as well as recreational opportunities like hunting, fishing, and nature appreciation

Our province has around 35,000,000 hectares or more of wetlands but even though there are still many in northern Ontario, they are disappearing in southern Ontario.

Learn more: the state of wetlands and biodiversity

Protecting wetlands

We have laws, regulations and policies that guide land use. Many of these help protect wetlands.

The Provincial Policy Statement (authorized under The Planning Act) protects certain wetlands from development and other changes.

Read: Provincial Policy Statement

These provincial land use plans provide additional guidance:

Regulations under the Conservation Authorities Act prohibit certain activities within wetlands.

Wetlands are ranked to determine whether they should receive special protection as “provincially significant”. Significance is determined by the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System.

To find out if a wetland is significant, visit Make a Natural Heritage Area Map or contact your local Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry office.

Learn more: Ontario Wetland Evaluation System

Wetland grants and incentives

Ontario works with partners to conserve wetlands. Programs include:

Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program

If you're a property owner, you may qualify for a 100% property tax exemption for land with important natural heritage features (such as provincially significant wetlands).

Apply: Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program

Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program

If you're a property owner, you may qualify for tax relief if you agree to prepare and follow a Managed Forest Plan for your property.

Apply: Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program

Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund

Organizations may be eligible to apply for grants that benefit wetlands within the Great Lakes basin.

Apply: Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund

Species at Risk Stewardship Fund

Grants may be available for wetland conservation work that benefits species at risk.

Apply: Species at Risk Stewardship Fund

Updated: October 19, 2021
Published: March 26, 2014