Michigan is a state in the Great Lakes and Midwestern regions of the United States. The state's name, originates from the Ojibwe word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake". With a population of about 10 million, Michigan is the tenth most populous of the 50 United States, with the 11th most extensive total area, is the largest state by total area east of the Mississippi River, its capital is Lansing, its largest city is Detroit. Metro Detroit is among the nation's largest metropolitan economies. Michigan is the only state to consist of two peninsulas; the Lower Peninsula is noted as shaped like a mitten. The Upper Peninsula is separated from the Lower Peninsula by the Straits of Mackinac, a five-mile channel that joins Lake Huron to Lake Michigan; the Mackinac Bridge connects the peninsulas. The state has the longest freshwater coastline of any political subdivision in the world, being bounded by four of the five Great Lakes, plus Lake Saint Clair; as a result, it is one of the leading U.
S. states for recreational boating. Michigan has 64,980 inland lakes and ponds. A person in the state is never more than six miles from a natural water source or more than 85 miles from a Great Lakes shoreline; the area was first occupied by a succession of Native American tribes over thousands of years. Inhabited by Natives, Métis, French explorers in the 17th century, it was claimed as part of New France colony. After France's defeat in the French and Indian War in 1762, the region came under British rule. Britain ceded this territory to the newly independent United States after Britain's defeat in the American Revolutionary War; the area was part of the larger Northwest Territory until 1800, when western Michigan became part of the Indiana Territory. Michigan Territory was formed in 1805, but some of the northern border with Canada was not agreed upon until after the War of 1812. Michigan was admitted into the Union in 1837 as a free one, it soon became an important center of industry and trade in the Great Lakes region and a popular immigrant destination in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Although Michigan developed a diverse economy, it is known as the center of the U. S. automotive industry, which developed as a major economic force in the early 20th century. It is home to the country's three major automobile companies. While sparsely populated, the Upper Peninsula is important for tourism thanks to its abundance of natural resources, while the Lower Peninsula is a center of manufacturing, agriculture and high-tech industry; when the first European explorers arrived, the most populous tribes were Algonquian peoples, which include the Anishinaabe groups of Ojibwe, Odaawaa/Odawa, the Boodewaadamii/Bodéwadmi. The three nations co-existed peacefully as part of a loose confederation called the Council of Three Fires; the Ojibwe, whose numbers are estimated to have been between 25,000 and 35,000, were the largest. The Ojibwe were established in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and northern and central Michigan, inhabited Ontario and southern Manitoba, Canada; the Ottawa lived south of the Straits of Mackinac in northern and southern Michigan, but in southern Ontario, northern Ohio and eastern Wisconsin.
The Potawatomi were in southern and western Michigan, in addition to northern and central Indiana, northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin, southern Ontario. Other Algonquian tribes in Michigan, in the south and east, were the Mascouten, the Menominee, the Miami, the Sac, the Fox; the Wyandot were an Iroquoian-speaking people in this area. French voyageurs and coureurs des bois settled in Michigan in the 17th century; the first Europeans to reach what became Michigan were those of Étienne Brûlé's expedition in 1622. The first permanent European settlement was founded in 1668 on the site where Père Jacques Marquette established Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan as a base for Catholic missions. Missionaries in 1671–75 founded outlying stations at Saint Ignace and Marquette. Jesuit missionaries were well received by the area's Indian populations, with few difficulties or hostilities. In 1679, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle built Fort Miami at present-day St. Joseph. In 1691, the French established a trading post and Fort St. Joseph along the St. Joseph River at the present-day city of Niles.
In 1701, French explorer and army officer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac founded Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit or "Fort Pontchartrain on-the-Strait" on the strait, known as the Detroit River, between lakes Saint Clair and Erie. Cadillac had convinced King Louis XIV's chief minister, Louis Phélypeaux, Comte de Pontchartrain, that a permanent community there would strengthen French control over the upper Great Lakes and discourage British aspirations; the hundred soldiers and workers who accompanied Cadillac built a fort enclosing one arpent and named it Fort Pontchartrain. Cadillac's wife, Marie Thérèse Guyon, soon moved to Detroit, becoming one of the first European women to settle in what was considered the wilderness of Michigan; the town became a major fur-trading and shipping post. The Église de Saint-Anne was founded the same year. While the original building does not survive, the congregation remains active. Cadillac departed to serve as the French governor of Louisiana from 1710 to 1716.
French attempts to consol
A kayak is a small, narrow watercraft, propelled by means of a double-bladed paddle. The word kayak originates from the Greenlandic word qajaq; the traditional kayak has one or more cockpits, each seating one paddler. The cockpit is sometimes covered by a spray deck that prevents the entry of water from waves or spray, differentiating the craft from a canoe; the spray deck makes it possible for suitably skilled kayakers to roll the kayak: that is, to capsize and right it without it filling with water or ejecting the paddler. Some modern boats vary from a traditional design but still claim the title "kayak", for instance in eliminating the cockpit by seating the paddler on top of the boat. Kayaks are being sailed, as well as propelled by means of small electric motors, by outboard gas engines; the kayak was first used by the indigenous Aleut, Inuit and Ainu hunters in subarctic regions of the world. Kayaks were developed by the Inuit, Yup'ik, Aleut, they used the boats to hunt on inland lakes and coastal waters of the Arctic Ocean, North Atlantic, Bering Sea and North Pacific oceans.
These first kayaks were constructed from stitched seal or other animal skins stretched over a wood or whalebone-skeleton frame.. Kayaks are believed to be at least 4,000 years old; the oldest existing kayaks are exhibited in the North America department of the State Museum of Ethnology in Munich, with the oldest dating from 1577. Native people made many types of boat for different purposes; the Aleut baidarka was made in double or triple cockpit designs, for hunting and transporting passengers or goods. An umiak is a large open sea canoe, ranging from 17 to 30 feet, made with wood, it is considered a kayak although it was paddled with single-bladed paddles, had more than one paddler. Native builders designed and built their boats based on their own experience and that of the generations before them, passed on through oral tradition; the word "kayak" means "man's boat" or "hunter's boat", native kayaks were a personal craft, each built by the man who used it—with assistance from his wife, who sewed the skins—and fitting his size for maximum maneuverability.
The paddler wore a tuilik, a garment, stretched over the rim of the kayak coaming, sealed with drawstrings at the coaming and hood edges. This enabled the "eskimo roll" and rescue to become the preferred methods of recovery after capsizing as few Inuit could swim. Instead of a tuilik, most traditional kayakers today use a spray deck made of waterproof synthetic material stretchy enough to fit around the cockpit rim and body of the kayaker, which can be released from the cockpit to permit easy exit. Inuit kayak builders had specific measurements for their boats; the length was three times the span of his outstretched arms. The width at the cockpit was the width of the builder's hips plus two fists; the typical depth was his fist plus the outstretched thumb. Thus typical dimensions were about 17 feet long by 20–22 inches wide by 7 inches deep; this measurement system confounded early European explorers who tried to duplicate the kayak, because each kayak was a little different. Traditional kayaks encompass three types: Baidarkas, from the Bering sea & Aleutian islands, the oldest design, whose rounded shape and numerous chines give them an Blimp-like appearance.
Most of the Aleut people in the Aleutian Islands eastward to Greenland Inuit relied on the kayak for hunting a variety of prey—primarily seals, though whales and caribou were important in some areas. Skin-on-frame kayaks are still being used for hunting by Inuit people in Greenland, because the smooth and flexible skin glides silently through the waves. In other parts of the world home builders are continuing the tradition of skin on frame kayaks with modern skins of canvas or synthetic fabric, such as sc. ballistic nylon. Contemporary traditional-style kayaks trace their origins to the native boats of Alaska, northern Canada, Southwest Greenland. Wooden kayaks and fabric kayaks on wooden frames dominated the market up until the 1950s, when fiberglass boats were first introduced in the US, inflatable rubberized fabric boats were first introduced in Europe. Rotomolded plastic kayaks first appeared in 1973, most kayaks today are made from roto-molded polyethylene resins; the development of plastic and rubberized inflatable kayaks arguably initiated the development of freestyle kayaking as we see it today, since these boats could be made smaller and more resilient than fiberglass boats.
Kayak design is a matter of trade-offs: directional stability vs maneuverability. Multihull kayaks face a different set of trade-offs; the paddler's body shap
An ecosystem is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment, interacting as a system. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Energy is incorporated into plant tissue. By feeding on plants and on one-another, animals play an important role in the movement of matter and energy through the system, they influence the quantity of plant and microbial biomass present. By breaking down dead organic matter, decomposers release carbon back to the atmosphere and facilitate nutrient cycling by converting nutrients stored in dead biomass back to a form that can be used by plants and other microbes. Ecosystems are controlled by internal factors. External factors such as climate, the parent material which forms the soil and topography, control the overall structure of an ecosystem, but are not themselves influenced by the ecosystem. Ecosystems are dynamic entities—they are subject to periodic disturbances and are in the process of recovering from some past disturbance.
Ecosystems in similar environments that are located in different parts of the world can end up doing things differently because they have different pools of species present. Internal factors not only control ecosystem processes but are controlled by them and are subject to feedback loops. Resource inputs are controlled by external processes like climate and parent material. Resource availability within the ecosystem is controlled by internal factors like decomposition, root competition or shading. Although humans operate within ecosystems, their cumulative effects are large enough to influence external factors like climate. Biodiversity affects ecosystem functioning, as do the processes of disturbance and succession. Ecosystems provide a variety of services upon which people depend; the term ecosystem was first used in 1935 in a publication by British ecologist Arthur Tansley. Tansley devised the concept to draw attention to the importance of transfers of materials between organisms and their environment.
He refined the term, describing it as "The whole system... including not only the organism-complex, but the whole complex of physical factors forming what we call the environment". Tansley regarded ecosystems not as natural units, but as "mental isolates". Tansley defined the spatial extent of ecosystems using the term ecotope. G. Evelyn Hutchinson, a limnologist, a contemporary of Tansley's, combined Charles Elton's ideas about trophic ecology with those of Russian geochemist Vladimir Vernadsky; as a result, he suggested. This would, in turn, limit the abundance of animals. Raymond Lindeman took these ideas further to suggest that the flow of energy through a lake was the primary driver of the ecosystem. Hutchinson's students, brothers Howard T. Odum and Eugene P. Odum, further developed a "systems approach" to the study of ecosystems; this allowed them to study the flow of material through ecological systems. Ecosystems are controlled both by internal factors. External factors called state factors, control the overall structure of an ecosystem and the way things work within it, but are not themselves influenced by the ecosystem.
The most important of these is climate. Climate determines the biome. Rainfall patterns and seasonal temperatures influence photosynthesis and thereby determine the amount of water and energy available to the ecosystem. Parent material determines the nature of the soil in an ecosystem, influences the supply of mineral nutrients. Topography controls ecosystem processes by affecting things like microclimate, soil development and the movement of water through a system. For example, ecosystems can be quite different if situated in a small depression on the landscape, versus one present on an adjacent steep hillside. Other external factors that play an important role in ecosystem functioning include time and potential biota; the set of organisms that can be present in an area can significantly affect ecosystems. Ecosystems in similar environments that are located in different parts of the world can end up doing things differently because they have different pools of species present; the introduction of non-native species can cause substantial shifts in ecosystem function.
Unlike external factors, internal factors in ecosystems not only control ecosystem processes but are controlled by them. They are subject to feedback loops. While the resource inputs are controlled by external processes like climate and parent material, the availability of these resources within the ecosystem is controlled by internal factors like decomposition, root competition or shading. Other factors like disturbance, succession or the types of species present are internal factors. Primary production is the production of organic matter from inorganic carbon sources; this occurs through photosynthesis. The energy incorporated through this process supports life on earth, while the carbon makes up much of the organic matter in living and dead biomass, soil carbon and fossil fuels, it drives the carbon cycle, which influences global climate via the greenhouse effect. Through the process of photosynthesis, plants capture energy from light and use it to combine carbon dioxide and water to produce carbohydrates and oxygen.
The photosynthesis carried out by all the plants in an ecosystem is called the gross primary production. About half of the GPP is consumed in plant respiration; the remainder, that portion of GPP, not used up by respirati
Ontonagon is a village in the U. S. state of Michigan. The population was 1,494 at the 2010 census, it is the county seat of Ontonagon County. The village is located within Ontonagon Township, at the mouth of the Ontonagon River on Lake Superior. Industry was centered on the Smurfit-Stone Container production facility at the river mouth until the plant closed in 2010. According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 3.86 square miles, of which, 3.71 square miles of it is land and 0.15 square miles is water. Ontonagon is the westernmost incorporated community in the United States in the designated Eastern Time Zone as determined by the United States Department of Transportation. In the summer the sun sets over Lake Superior at 10 p.m. local time with dusk lasting until 11 p.m. By contrast in the winter the sun does not rise until just before 9 a.m. and it is still pitch black at 8 a.m. Ontonagon is within one degree of longitude to the east of the 90th meridian west, the meridian for the Central Time Zone.
Therefore, Ontonagon is geographically situated in the Central Time Zone, not the Eastern Time Zone. As a result of this idiosyncrasy, Ontonagon has its solar noon occur either at or near 1 p.m. during the winter when standard time is being observed and 2 p.m. when daylight saving time is being observed. The same is true for solar midnight, which occurs at or near 1 a.m. while on standard time and 2 a.m. while on daylight saving time. US 45 M-38 M-64 The village is served by the Ontonagon County Airport; as of the census of 2010, there were 1,494 people, 717 households, 390 families residing in the village. The population density was 402.7 inhabitants per square mile. There were 910 housing units at an average density of 245.3 per square mile. The racial makeup of the village was 97.3% White, 0.1% African American, 0.7% Native American, 0.3% Asian, 0.2% from other races, 1.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.2% of the population. There were 717 households of which 19.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.9% were married couples living together, 9.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.9% had a male householder with no wife present, 45.6% were non-families.
41.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 19.3% had someone living alone, 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.99 and the average family size was 2.66. The median age in the village was 51.1 years. 17.6% of residents were under the age of 18. The gender makeup of the village was 48.9% male and 51.1% female. At the census of 2000 there were 1,769 people, 768 households, 450 families living in the village; the population density was 182.1/square kilometre. There were 891 housing units at an average density of 91.7/square kilometre. The racial makeup of the village was 97.68% White, 0.00% African American, 0.73% Native American, 0.23% Asian, 0.00% Pacific Islander, 0.28% from other races, 1.07% from two or more races. 0.85 % of the population were Latino of any race. 25.9 % were of 6.4 % French. 5.8% English and 5.6% Irish ancestry according to Census 2000. There were 768 households, of which 24.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.3% were married couples living together, 8.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 41.4% were non-families.
37.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 19.8% had someone living alone, 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.11 and the average family size was 2.76. In the village, the population was spread out with 20.5% under the age of 18, 4.2% from 18 to 24, 23.0% from 25 to 44, 25.0% from 45 to 64, 27.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 47 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.7 males. For every 100 females aged 18 and over, there were 88.1 males. The median income for a household in the village was $28,300, the median income for a family was $35,804. Males had a median income of $36,964 versus $20,815 for females; the per capita income for the village was $16,293. 11.8% of the population and 6.5% of families were below the poverty line. 15.1% of those under the age of 18 and 10.0% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line. This climatic region is typified by large seasonal temperature differences, with warm to hot summers and cold winters.
According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Ontonagon has a humid continental climate, abbreviated "Dfb" on climate maps. Village of Ontonagon Official Website
Bessemer is a city in the U. S. state of Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 1,914, it is the county seat of Gogebic County. The city is politically independent, it is on US 2 with Wakefield several miles to the east. The Big Powderhorn and Indianhead ski areas are located within a few miles of Bessemer. Cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are very popular in this area because of heavy snowfall influenced by nearby Lake Superior and this area is referred to as "Big Snow Country". In 1880, a hunter and trapper Richard Langford, discovered iron ore under an overturned birch tree. However, Captain N. D. Moore is credited with disclosing the ore which led to the development of the Colby property. Mining began in 1883. By 1884, the Milwaukee Lake Shore and Western Railroad was being built from Antigo, WI to Ashland, WI by way of the new mines; the railroad company platted the town of Bessemer in 1884. On June 4, 1886 Gogebic County was separated from Ontonagon County. In March 1887, 360 voting members voted to organize the village of Bessemer.
In the same year Gogebic County was created by the Michigan Legislature. In the year Bessemer and Ironwood called an election to see which city would be the county seat and have the Gogebic County Courthouse. Ironwood men traveling to Bessemer to vote were made drunk and the train did not stop at the voting site. Ironwood lost and Bessemer gained the county seat. From 1884 to December 31, 1958, a period of seventy-five years, the iron ore shipment from all of Gogebic County totaled over 245 million tons. In 1966 the last mine in Bessemer-the Peterson Mine was closed. Many left the area to work in car factories in Kenosha, the local economy underwent a serious decline. Bessemer is named for English inventor of steel manufacturing. Bessemer is operated by an elected 5-member city council with day-to-day operations run by an appointed city manager. Staff consists of administrative staff, public works department, library staff. Bessemer belongs to the Gogebic Range Water Authority. City Council Mayor Adam Zak Mayor Pro-Tem Allen Archie Councilman Rob Coleman Councilman Terry Kryshak Councilwoman Linda Nelson City Manager Charly Loper According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.47 square miles, all land.
Majority of Bessemer is situated on the north side of Colby Hill and the city consists of many hills and valleys. As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $27,639, the median income for a family was $36,739. Males had a median income of $28,958 versus $21,708 for females; the per capita income for the city was $17,499. About 8.6% of families and 12.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.0% of those under age 18 and 7.9% of those age 65 or over. As of the census of 2010, there were 1,905 people, 888 households, 511 families residing in the city; the population density was 348.3 inhabitants per square mile. There were 1,140 housing units at an average density of 208.4 per square mile. The racial makeup of the city was 96.4% White, 0.5% African American, 0.9% Native American, 0.3% Asian, 0.3% from other races, 1.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.7% of the population. There were 888 households of which 24.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.9% were married couples living together, 10.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.1% had a male householder with no wife present, 42.5% were non-families.
38.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 19.4% had someone living alone, 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.11 and the average family size was 2.76. The median age in the city was 45.4 years. 20.3% of residents were under the age of 18. The gender makeup of the city was 49.1% male and 50.9% female. Ironwood Daily Globe Wakefield News/Bessemer Pick & Axe WIMI 99.7 FM - Ironwood WJMS 590 AM - Ironwood WUPM 106.9 FM - Ironwood WHRY 1450 AM - Hurley WRJO 94.5 FM - Eagle River WJJH 96.7 FM - Ashland WBSZ 93.3 FM - Ashland WUPY 101.1 FM - Ontonagon WUWS 90.9 FM - Ashland WHBM 90.3 FM - Park Falls WLUC TV 6 -NBC/FOX WNMU -PBS KDLH -CBS KBJR -NBC WDIO -ABC KQDS-TV -FOX Otto Binder, science fiction and comic book author. S. congressmen for Wisconsin's 8th congressional district. Kevin Borseth, women's basketball coach at The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. US Highway 2 is the Upper Peninsula's longest US Highway, stretching from St. Ignace to neighboring Ironwood.
County Road 513 begins in Bessemer at junction with US 2 and runs 15 miles north to Black River Harbor on the shore of Lake Superior. A section of the road is designated the Black River National Forest Scenic Byway. County Road 200 travels west to Ironwood. Indian Trails provides daily in
U.S. Route 2 in Michigan
US Highway 2 is a component of the United States Numbered Highway System that connects Everett, Washington, to the Upper Peninsula of the US state of Michigan, with a separate segment that runs from Rouses Point, New York, to Houlton, Maine. In Michigan, the highway runs through the UP in two segments as a part of the state trunkline highway system, entering the state at Ironwood and ending at St. Ignace; as one of the major transportation arteries in the UP, US 2 is a major conduit for traffic through the state and neighboring northern Midwest states. Two sections of the roadway are included as part of the Great Lakes Circle Tours, other segments are listed as state-designated Pure Michigan Byways. There are several memorial highway designations and historic bridges along US 2 that date to the 1910s and 1920s; the highway runs through rural sections of the UP, passing through two national and two state forests in the process. The route of what became US 2 was used as part of two Indian trails before European settlers came to the UP, as part of the Michigan segments of the Theodore Roosevelt International Highway and the King's International Highway auto trails in the early 20th century.
The state included these trails as part of M‑12 when the first state highway trunklines were designated in 1919. Most of M‑12 was redesignated as part of US 2 when the US Highway System was created on November 11, 1926. Since the 1930s, several changes have reshaped the highway's routing through the UP. One such alteration created a business loop that connected across the state line with Hurley and others pushed an inland routing of US 2 closer to the Lake Michigan shoreline. With the creation of the Interstate Highway System, part of US 2 was rerouted to coincide with the new Interstate 75, though in the 1980s, the U. S. Highway was removed from the I‑75 freeway, resulting in today's basic form. According to a 2006 regional planning committee report, US 2 is a key highway for Michigan, providing its main western gateway; the roadway plays "an important role in the transportation of goods across the northern tier of states in the Midwest", is listed on the National Highway System for its entire length.
The NHS is a network of roadways important to the country's economy and mobility. Together with M‑28, US 2 is part of a pair of primary trunklines that bridge the eastern and western sides of the UP; the 305.151 miles of roadway in Michigan is divided into a 109.177-mile western segment and a 195.974-mile eastern segment, interrupted by a section that runs for 14.460 miles in the state of Wisconsin. US 2 enters Michigan from Wisconsin for the first time north of downtown Hurley and Ironwood, over the state line that runs along the Montreal River; the highway crosses the river into Gogebic County and passes a welcome center on the way into a commercial district north of downtown. Running along Cloverland Drive, US 2 meets its only business route in Michigan at Douglas Boulevard; the business route was a full loop that ran west through downtown Ironwood and crossed the border into Hurley and back to the main highway. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has removed the signage on their side of the border, which reduced the loop to a business spur that ends at the state line.
US 2 continues eastward through UP woodlands to the city of Bessemer. While bypassing the community of Ramsay, the highway crosses a branch of the Black River; the roadway enters Wakefield on the south side of Sunday Lake. As the US Highway leaves Wakefield, it turns southeasterly through the Ottawa National Forest, crossing Jackson Creek and two branches of the Presque Isle River. US 2 and M‑64 merge and run concurrently over the second branch of the Presque Isle in the community of Marenisco; this concurrency has the lowest traffic volume along the entire length of the highway within the state. At the end of the concurrency, M‑64 turns northerly to run along Lake Gogebic; the highway continues parallel to the state line from the Marensico area through the national forest toward Watersmeet. That unincorporated community is the home of the Watersmeet High School Nimrods, the basketball team featured on a series of ESPN commercials and a documentary series on the Sundance Channel; the area is where the waters meet.
Located in the area are the Sylvania Wilderness, the Lac Vieux Desert Indian Reservation, which includes the Lac Vieux Desert Casino and Resort. The highway travels southeasterly from Watersmeet around the many lakes and streams in the area and crosses into rural Iron County. US 2 intersects Federal Forest Highway 16 near Golden Lake in Stambaugh Township in the middle of the national forest; the trunkline runs along the Iron River as it approaches the city of the same name and meets M‑73. In town, US 2 intersects M‑189 before turning northeast out of the city. US 2 leaves the Ottawa National Forest at Iron River, the highway continues eastward through forest lands near several small lakes to Crystal Falls, the county seat of Iron County. On the west side of town, US 2 meets US 141; the combined highway turns south onto 5th Street and meets M‑69's eastern terminus at the
A wetland is a distinct ecosystem, inundated by water, either permanently or seasonally, where oxygen-free processes prevail. 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 functions, including water purification, water storage, processing of carbon and other nutrients, stabilization of shorelines, support of plants and animals. Wetlands are considered the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, serving as home to a wide range of plant and animal life. Whether any individual wetland performs these functions, the degree to which it performs them, depends on characteristics of that wetland and the lands and waters near it. Methods for assessing these functions, wetland ecological health, general wetland condition have been developed in many regions and have contributed to wetland conservation by raising public awareness of the functions and the ecosystem services some wetlands provide.
Wetlands occur on every continent. The main wetland types are swamp, marsh and fen. Many peatlands are wetlands; the water in wetlands is either brackish, or saltwater. Wetlands can be non-tidal; the largest wetlands include the Amazon River basin, the West Siberian Plain, the Pantanal in South America, the Sundarbans in the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta. The UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment determined that environmental degradation is more prominent within wetland systems than any other ecosystem on Earth. Constructed wetlands are used to treat municipal and industrial wastewater as well as stormwater runoff, they may play a role in water-sensitive urban design. A patch of land that develops pools of water after a rain storm would not be considered a "wetland" though the land is wet. Wetlands have unique characteristics: they are distinguished from other water bodies or landforms based on their water level and on the types of plants that live within them. Wetlands are characterized as having a water table that stands at or near the land surface for a long enough period each year to support aquatic plants.
A more concise definition is a community composed of hydric soil and hydrophytes. Wetlands have been described as ecotones, providing a transition between dry land and water bodies. Mitsch and Gosselink write that wetlands exist "...at the interface between terrestrial ecosystems and aquatic systems, making them inherently different from each other, yet dependent on both."In environmental decision-making, there are subsets of definitions that are agreed upon to make regulatory and policy decisions. A wetland is "an ecosystem that arises when inundation by water produces soils dominated by anaerobic and aerobic processes, which, in turn, forces the biota rooted plants, to adapt to flooding." There are four main kinds of wetlands – marsh, swamp and fen. Some experts recognize wet meadows and aquatic ecosystems as additional wetland types; the largest wetlands in the world include the swamp forests of the Amazon and the peatlands of Siberia. Under the Ramsar international wetland conservation treaty, wetlands are defined as follows: Article 1.1: "...wetlands are areas of marsh, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water, static or flowing, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres."
Article 2.1: " may incorporate riparian and coastal zones adjacent to the wetlands, islands or bodies of marine water deeper than six metres at low tide lying within the wetlands." Although the general definition given above applies around the world, each county and region tends to have its own definition for legal purposes. In the United States, wetlands are defined as "those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands include swamps, marshes and similar areas"; this definition has been used in the enforcement of the Clean Water Act. Some US states, such as Massachusetts and New York, have separate definitions that may differ from the federal government's. In the United States Code, the term wetland is defined "as land that has a predominance of hydric soils, is inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support a prevalence of hydrophytic vegetation adapted for life in saturated soil conditions and under normal circumstances supports a prevalence of such vegetation."
Related to this legal definitions, the term "normal circumstances" are conditions expected to occur during the wet portion of the growing season under normal climatic conditions, in the absence of significant disturbance. It is not uncommon for a wetland to be dry for long portions of the growing season. Wetlands can be dry during the dry season and abnormally dry periods during the wet season, but under normal environmental conditions the soils in a wetland will be saturated to the surface or inundated such that the soils become anaerobic, those conditions will persist through the wet portion of the growing season; the most important factor producing wetlands is flooding. The duration of flooding or prolonged soil saturation by groundwater determines whether the resulting wetland has aquatic, marsh or swamp vegetation