Portal:Wetlands

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Wetlands Portal

Wetlands

A wetland is a land area that is saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally, such that it takes on the characteristics of a distinct ecosystem. The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other land forms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation of aquatic plants, adapted to the unique hydric soil. Wetlands play a number of roles in the environment, principally water purification, flood control, carbon sink and shoreline stability. Wetlands are also considered the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, serving as home to a wide range of plant and animal life. Wetlands occur naturally on every continent except Antarctica, the largest including the Amazon River basin, the West Siberian Plain, and the Pantanal in South America. The water found in wetlands can be freshwater, brackish, or saltwater. The main wetland types include swamps, marshes, bogs, and fens; and sub-types include mangrove, carr, pocosin, and varzea.

The UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment determined that environmental degradation is more prominent within wetland systems than any other ecosystem on Earth. International conservation efforts are being used in conjunction with the development of rapid assessment tools to inform people about wetland issues.

Constructed wetlands can be used to treat municipal and industrial wastewater as well as stormwater runoff and they also play a role in water-sensitive urban design.

Selected article

Pocosin forested by pond pines and white cedars
Pocosin is a term for a type of palustrine wetland with deep, acidic, sandy, peat soils. Groundwater saturates the soil except during brief seasonal dry spells and during prolonged droughts. Pocosin soils are nutrient deficient (oligotrophic), especially in phosphorus.

Pocosins occur in the Atlantic coastal plain of North America, spanning from southeastern Virginia, through North Carolina, and into South Carolina. However, the majority of pocosins are found in North Carolina. They occupy poorly drained higher ground between streams and floodplains. Seeps cause the inundation. There are often perched water tables underlying pocosins.

Shrub vegetation is common. Pocosins are sometimes called shrub bogs. Pond pines dominate pocosin forests, but loblolly pine and longleaf pine are also associated with pocosins. Additionally, pocosins are home to rare and threatened plant species including Venus flytrap and sweet pitcher plant.

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Egrets in the Atchafalaya Basin
Credit: Team New Orleans, US Army Corps of Engineers.

Two egrets in the Atchafalaya Basin.

Did you know...

that an Igapó is a blackwater-flooded forest?
...that an Igapó is a blackwater-flooded Amazonian forest?

(Pictured left: Igapó in Brazil.)

Other "Did you know" facts... Read more...

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