Ecology And Environment

Overview of the four Kinds of Wetlands



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This planet is a beautiful place, filled with so many diverse species in hundreds of different ecosystems. Sadly, several of these ecosystems are being destroyed because of human activity, causing the extinction of many plants and animals. Fortunately, there's still time to take action and prevent the wonders of nature from dying out.

Ecosystems are often classified in several different ways, and it can get really hard to keep track of what description fits what habitat. Wetlands are a good example of this. A wetland is a place where there is water either covering the soil, or at or near the surface of the soil. The water may be present the whole year, or only during certain seasons. The water-saturated soil has a big effect on the types of plants and animals living in the wetland. There are actually many different kinds of wetlands, but the four major ones are: marshes, swamps, bogs, and fens. 

A marsh is a wetland in which the soil usually or always filled with water. Marshes receive their water from surface water and groundwater, and have soft-stemmed plants growing in them. There's a lot of plant and animal life in marshes, which is due to the many nutrients available and the neutral pH of the water. They can be categorized further into tidal and non-tidal marshes, both of which filter excess nutrients that can harm wildlife. Tidal marshes are found along coastlines, while non-tidal ones are spread out all over North America. There are different types of non-tidal marshes, including wet meadows, prairie potholes, vernal pools, and playa lakes.

A swamp is a wetland that is filled with woody plants. Swamps have nutrient-rich, organic soil, which is saturated during the growing season. Standing water is present at some points throughout the year. The environment found in a swamp is ideal for water-tolerant trees, shrubs, and animals such as fish, birds, clams, and shrimp. Swamps are classified as either forested swamps or shrub swamps, depending on the type of plants found there.

A bog has acidic water, peat moss, and a thick layer of sphagnum moss on the ground. Bogs are low in nutrients because their water comes from precipitation, not groundwater or runoff. The plants and animals that live in bogs have to be able to withstand the acidic water and the low nutrient level. Bogs can be divided into northern bogs and pocosins. A northern bog has a lot of moisture, low temperatures, and short growing seasons. A pocosin is a bog that is densely populated with evergreen trees and shrubs.

A fen is a wetland that also has peat moss growing in it, but has less acidity and more nutrients because the water comes from groundwater, not precipitation. Fens, therefore, are able to support a higher diversity of organisms, including sedges, wildflowers, and grasses. However, a fen may become a bog if peat moss keeps growing until it separates the wetland from its groundwater supply. 

For more information on the different kinds of wetlands, go to this website.

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