Portal:Wetlands

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Wetlands Portal

Wetlands

Freshwater swamp forest in Bangladesh

A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is 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 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, the main wetland types are swamp, marsh, bog, fen, and peatland; sub-types includemangrove forest, carr, and pocosin, and floodplain. The water in wetlands is either freshwater, brackish, or saltwater, the largest wetlands include the Amazon River basin, the West Siberian Plain, the Pantanal in South America, and 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. International conservation efforts are being used in conjunction with the development of rapid assessment tools to inform people about wetland issues.

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

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Mangroves in Kannur, India.
Mangroves are various large and extensive types of trees up to medium height and shrubs that grow in saline coastal sediment habitats in the tropics and subtropics—mainly between latitudes 25° N and 25° S. The remaining mangrove forest areas of the world in 2000 was 53,190 square miles (137,760 km²) spanning 118 countries and territories.

Mangroves are salt tolerant trees, also called halophytes, and are adapted to life in harsh coastal conditions, they contain a complex salt filtration system and complex root system to cope with salt water immersion and wave action. They are adapted to the low oxygen (anoxic) conditions of waterlogged mud.

The word is used in at least three senses: (1) most broadly to refer to the habitat and entire plant assemblage or mangal, for which the terms mangrove forest biome, mangrove swamp and mangrove forest are also used, (2) to refer to all trees and large shrubs in the mangrove swamp, and (3) narrowly to refer to the mangrove family of plants, the Rhizophoraceae, or even more specifically just to mangrove trees of the genus Rhizophora.

The mangrove biome, or mangal, is a distinct saline woodland or shrubland habitat characterized by depositional coastal environments, where fine sediments (often with high organic content) collect in areas protected from high-energy wave action. The saline conditions tolerated by various mangrove species range from brackish water, through pure seawater (30 to 40 ppt [parts per thousand]), to water concentrated by evaporation to over twice the salinity of ocean seawater (up to 90 ppt).

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Mangrove trees protect the shore from erosion
Credit: National Park Service

Mangrove trees along the coastline protect the shore from erosion.

Did you know...

that 40% of American migrating waterfowl use the Mississippi Flyway?
...that 40% of American migrating waterfowl use the Mississippi Flyway?

(Pictured left: North American Waterfowl flyways map.)

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

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