Wet flatwood forests, or "flats," are one of the most important and common types of non-tidal wetlands, but are the least recognized type in Delaware. Due to their seasonally-wet nature, they often appear dry on the surface. Also called "winter wet woods," they occur as mixed hardwood forests in the upper reaches of most watersheds, and as loblolly pine/maple-gum forests in areas on the edges of the Inland Bays. A variety of other wetland and upland plants also share this habitat.
Why are flats important?
Flats provide large areas that can filter pollutants from water coming off the surrounding lands before they reach streams, and are thus critical to maintaining water quality downstream. As with other freshwater wetlands in Delaware, their seasonality makes them especially vulnerable to human impacts. They are most commonly drained and converted to fields for agricultural use or are filled and developed upon.
Flats also provide habitat for many wildlife species, such as birds, turtles, and deer. This makes them a great place for ecotourism and recreation, such as wildlife viewing, photography, and hunting.
Page reviewed 4/4/19