Portal:Wetlands

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Wetlands Portal

Introduction

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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A swamp in the Atchafalaya Basin
A swamp in the Atchafalaya Basin
The Atchafalaya Basin, or Atchafalaya Swamp, is the largest wetland and swamp in the United States. Located in south central Louisiana, it is a combination of wetlands and river delta area where the Atchafalaya River and the Gulf of Mexico converge. The river stretches from near Simmesport in the north through parts of eight parishes to the Morgan City area in the south. The Atchafalaya is unique among Louisiana basins because it has a growing delta system (see illustration) with nearly stable wetlands. The basin contains about 70% forest habitat and about 30% marsh and open water. It contains the largest contiguous block of forested wetlands remaining (about 35%) in the lower Mississippi River valley and the largest block of floodplain forest in the United States. Best known for its iconic cypress-tupelo swamps, at 260,000 acres (110,000 ha), this block of forest represents the largest remaining contiguous tract of coastal cypress in the US.

The Atchafalaya Basin, the surrounding plain of the river, is filled with bayous, bald cypress swamps, and marshes that give way to more brackish estuarine conditions and end in the Spartina grass marshes, near and at where it meets the Gulf of Mexico. It includes the Lower Atchafalaya River, Wax Lake Outlet, Atchafalaya Bay, and the Atchafalaya River and Bayous Chene, Boeuf, and Black navigation channel. See maps and photo views of the Atchafalaya Deltas centered on 29°26′30″N 91°25′00″W / 29.44167°N 91.41667°W / 29.44167; -91.41667. (Full article...)

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The following are images from various wetland-related articles on Wikipedia.

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Pantanal in flood condition
Credit: Claudyo Casares
Pantanal in flood condition.

Did you know...

that Spanish moss lowers their growth rate and increases wind resistance?
... that Spanish moss lowers the growth rate of trees and increases wind resistance?

(Pictured left: Spanish moss.)

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

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