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

A salt marsh.
In ecology, a halosere is a succession in a saline environment. An example of a halosere is a salt marsh.

In a river estuary, large amounts of silt are deposited by the ebbing tides and inflowing rivers.

The earliest plant colonizers are algae and eel grass, which can tolerate submergence by the tide for most of the 12-hour cycle and which trap mud, causing it to accumulate. Two other colonizers are Salicornia and Spartina, which are halophytes, i.e. plants that can tolerate saline conditions. They grow on the inter-tidal mudflats with a maximum of four hours' exposure to air every 12 hours.

Spartina has long roots enabling it to trap more mud than the initial colonizing plants and Salicornia, and so on. In most places this becomes dominant vegetation. The initial tidal flats receive new sediments daily, are waterlogged to the exclusion of oxygen, and have a high pH value.

The sward zone, in contrast, is inhabited by plants that can only tolerate a maximum of four hours submergence every day (24 hours). The dominant species there are sea lavender and other numerous types of grasses.

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