When Janet Hunt spent a summer exploring her local wetlands, she knew it was time to write about them.
The award-winning author had always planned to write about these unheralded areas of the New Zealand landscape, but it was not until she began exploring the wetlands on Waiheke Island where she lives that the book took shape.
The visits, done with other Forest and Bird Society members, were an eye-opener.
"For a long time I didn't think there was actually much in terms of water here at all, in terms of wetlands, or streams."
The book, Wetlands of New Zealand: A Bittersweet Story, which will be released on November 2 by Random House, catalogues the vital role wetlands play and the loss of large areas of them over the years.
"The Hauraki Plains just used to be one massive wetland. When the first settlers came, they spent a substantial part of the last century just simply trying to drain that area. They've converted it from what was a wetland to basically a dryland.
"But in doing so they've actually created additional problems because they've still got problems with water and they've now got salt coming into the area that was once drained. "Wetlands act like a huge sponge - they hold the water and then they release it slowly. If you take away your wetlands and you put in a straight drain, then that water runs very rapidly off the land so the land ends up drier in the dry times and more flooding when it's wet."
Wetlands also act as a buffer. After the Boxing Day tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, areas inland from intact wetlands were found to have been less damaged than areas where wetlands had been removed.
"People have this tendency to want to tidy things up and wetlands are not necessarily intrinsically tidy. They're kind of swampy and muddy, so we have this impulse to drain them and either have water or land - but in fact it's really important to have that kind of transition zone."
The wetlands are also important resting stops for migrating birds such as godwits, breeding grounds for fish, and home to a diverse range of animals that do not live anywhere else.
But some of these habitats have been destroyed.
"New Zealand used to have so many wetlands, and so many wetlands have been destroyed, and are still quite often being destroyed. In places like Southland and parts of Waikato ... they're putting in these massive drains.
"I'm actually a farmer's daughter so I can understand that you want to maybe maximise your pasture, but we've got to start thinking in terms of balancing these things."
But many are also restoring wetlands, replanting and fencing them from grazing livestock.
Councils now have booklets on preserving wetland, while the Enviroschools movement is making a difference among the young.
Volunteer groups are also active in some areas.
"Get out there and just visit them. They're wonderful places."
Can't tell a marsh from a mire? Check this handy wetlands glossary.
Bog: A peatland supplied by water from precipitation rather than groundwater.
Fen: A peatland that receives water from ground flows and so receives nutrients from the land as well as from rain.
Gumland: In northern New Zealand; wetland (usually peatland) formed on top of ancient kauri forests.
Lagg: A stream or swamp surrounding or fringing a domed bog.
Marsh: A mainly mineral wetland periodically flooded by standing or slowly moving water.
Meander: A sinuous turn produced by a mature stream or river as it swings and shifts course across its floodplain.
Mire: A peat-forming wetland.
Peat: A soil formed largely from partially decomposed remains of plants.
Peatland: A general term to describe all wetlands with peat substrates.
Swamp: A wetland with moderate water flow and fluctuation, and often with leads of standing water or surface channels. They are densely vegetated with reeds and other herbs and often woody shrubs such as manuka and coprosma.