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.

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Sacramento Delta at flood stage, early 2009
A river delta is a landform that forms from deposition of sediment carried by a river as the flow leaves its mouth and enters slower-moving or standing water. This occurs where a river enters an ocean, sea, estuary, lake, reservoir, or (more rarely) another river that cannot transport away the supplied sediment.

River deltas form when a river carrying sediment reaches either (1) a body of standing water, such as a lake, ocean, or reservoir, (2) another river that cannot remove the sediment quickly enough to stop delta formation, or (3) an inland region where the water spreads out and deposits sediments, the tidal currents also cannot be too strong, as sediment would wash out into the water body faster than the river deposits it. Of course, the river must carry enough sediment to layer into deltas over time, the river's velocity decreases rapidly, causing it to deposit the majority, if not all, of its load. This alluvium builds up to form the river delta. When the flow enters the standing water, it is no longer confined to its channel and expands in width, this flow expansion results in a decrease in the flow velocity, which diminishes the ability of the flow to transport sediment. As a result, sediment drops out of the flow and deposits, over time, this single channel builds a deltaic lobe (such as the bird's-foot of the Mississippi or Ural river deltas), pushing its mouth into the standing water. As the deltaic lobe advances, the gradient of the river channel becomes lower because the river channel is longer but has the same change in elevation (see slope).

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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 wetlands are among the earth's most productive ecosystems?
...that wetlands are among the earth's most productive ecosystems?

(Pictured left: Volcanic mudflow vernal pool.)

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

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