Invertebrate Management in Wetlands

Green dragonfly perched on plant stem.
Hine's Emerald Dragonfly

True aquatic invertebrate organisms include crayfish, dragonflies, damselflies, mayflies, midges, water boatmen and snails. Invertebrates found in moist, exposed soils of wetlands include ground beetles, pirate spiders, and diptera (fly) species.

Invertebrates play a vital role in all wetland communities. They are an important component in the food web, recycle nutrients, and help breakdown organic matter.

  • Waterfowl, shorebirds, and herons select invertebrate prey during times such as egg-laying when they need high-protein and high-calcium foods.
  • Several fish species feed almost entirely on aquatic insects.
  • Raccoons often feed on crayfish during dry conditions in wetlands.

The number of invertebrates in wetland systems can vary depending on management practices.

Invertebrates in Moist-Soil Areas

Moist-soil management produces excellent habitat for numerous mammals and birds as well as for many species of invertebrates. In this management technique, drawdown and refolding releases nutrients from the soil, which encourages robust stands of emergent vegetation, important as substrata for dynamic populations of invertebrates. Early summer drawdowns concentrate invertebrates, resulting in optimum feeding habitat for young waterfowl, shorebirds, and herons.

Invertebrates in Permanently Flooded Areas

Permanently flooded wetlands also provide important invertebrate habitat when water clarity allows aquatic plant growth. Submergent and emergent aquatic plants provide places for invertebrates to hide, cling to, graze, and lay eggs.

Although the populations of invertebrates supported by these wetlands are not as dynamic as those produced during moist-soil management practices, they do provide habitat for many invertebrates important to a balanced wetland community.