Did you know that any place you stand in the State of Delaware is usually within one mile of a wetland? Approximately 25% of the state today is covered by wetlands, but a lot of wetland area has been lost over time due to land conversion to farms and housing developments, storms, and sea level rise.
Aside from providing scenic vistas, serving recreational purposes, and fueling Delaware's ecotourism economy, wetlands have many other important functions. They clean and replenish our drinking waters, provide habitat and food for wildlife, absorb floodwaters, and protect our coasts from storm damage and sea level rise.
With 25% of Delaware's land area consisting of wetland habitat and the continual loss of wetlands due to sea level rise and development, it is important to understand how healthy our remaining wetlands are.
Although wetlands provide important ecosystem services, wetland management programs must compete with many other important issues for attention and funding from local stakeholders and decision-makers. Economic studies are often conducted to relay the value of services and resources provided by natural systems in dollar amounts.
In 1978, the State of Delaware enacted the Natural Areas Preservation System (7 Del. Code, Chapter 73) for the purpose of establishing an inventory of natural areas statewide and a system of nature preserves. A "natural area" as defined by the law is an "area of land or water, or of both land and water, whether in public or private ownership, which either retains or has reestablished its natural character (although it need not be undisturbed), or has unusual flora or fauna, or has biotic, geological, scenic or archaeological features of scientific or educational value. This data set depicts the current Natural Areas as identified by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.