According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a ‘wetlands’ is:
“land or areas (such as marshes or swamps) that are covered often intermittently with shallow water or have soil saturated with moisture —usually used in plural”
Dictionary.com adds this information to the definition of ‘wetlands’:
Noun: land that has a wet and spongy soil, as a marsh, swamp, or bog.
Wetland areas of the country are some of my favorite places to be! From the Swamps of Louisiana to the Everglades of Florida, Wetlands are beautiful, fascinating and full of useful information to learn. For instance, did you know that if you rub the fat of an alligator all over you that you will smell so bad the buzzards will leave you alone? How did we get by until now without that knowledge?! And there is so much more!
BASIC CHARACTERISTICS OF WETLANDS:
*Wetlands exist on every continent except Antarctica.
*The soil in a Wetland area is always saturated and water is a dominant factor. This type of soil is called Hydric Soil.
*Wetlands are always on land. They separate the water from the land.
*Wetlands can be salt water or freshwater.
*Wetland biomes are generally humid
*There is more animal diversity in a wetland than in any other type of biome.
*Wetlands serve as an overflow reservoir to prevent flooding.
*Wetlands serve as a filter that cleans surface water.
*Wetlands regulate river water and help keep rivers at normal levels.
*Wetlands are critical to the planet as they provide fresh clan water and oxygen.
SOME COMMON TYPES OF WETLANDS:
*A Swamp is a wetland that is forested or has trees and shrubs.
*Swamps are generally found near a large river.
*Swamps start out as lakes or ponds. With time, trees and shrubs begin to fill in the land. Plants die and decay and the level of the water recedes. The original body of water then becomes a swamp.
*Swamps have a high enough supply of minerals in the water to stimulate decay of organisms and prevent the accumulation of organic materials.
*The Atchafalaya Swamp at the lower end of the Mississippi River is the largest swamp in the United States.
*There are different kinds of swamps and are named according to their location and the types of trees that are found there. These types include: Cypress Swamps, Hardwood Swamps, Conifer Swamps, Shrub Swamps and Coastal Swamps.
*Many swamps are actually combinations of other types of wetlands including bogs, waterways and marshes.
*Swamps are where the fossil fuel, Coal is formed.
Swamps in the U.S. can be found all along the Gulf Coast and the Eastern seaboard.
*A Marsh is a wetland that is mostly made up of herbaceous plants (those plants that don’t have woody stems) like grasses and reeds.
*There are no trees in a Marsh.
*There are 3 types of Marshes:
-tidal salt marshes
-tidal freshwater marshes
-inland freshwater marshes
*The water in a Marsh is generally shallow.
*The base of a Marsh is made of sand and mud.
*The below water decomposition process in a Marsh can produce ‘Marsh Gas’ that explodes into tiny lights. These lights have been called fairy lights, Will-o-the-Wisp, corpse candles and treasure lights.
*Marshes recharge groundwater supplies by controlling flooding, storing flood water, purifying the water and providing water back to the streams.
*Marshes clean polluted water so effectively that they are now being created to treat agricultural, residential, and commercial wastewater.
*Draining a Marsh can lead to ‘saltwater intrusion’ which a process where salt water seeps into fresh water sources leaving less fresh water for drinking, hygiene and crop irrigation.
Marshes in the U.S. can be found primarily along the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard.
*A Bog is a wet, spongy, mossy area that is too soaked to support weight.
*A Bog usually develops in a small glaciated lake that has not drained well.
*A Bog is made up of primarily decayed vegetable matter and sphagnum (or peat) moss.
*Often in a Bog, you will find a Bog Mat which is floating debris forming a thick layer a few inches thick where the water is still.
*The soil in a Bog is very acidic and has low levels of nutrients.
*Heath and other low-lying hedges are mostly the vegetation that is found in a Bog because they need very little in the way of nutrients.
*Bogs exist in layers. From the top down, they are: (1) floating bog, (2) clear water, (3) false bottom, and (4) true bottom.
*Bogs are important to archeology. The lack of oxygen in the peat prevents the normal decomposing processes from taking place and so bogs have sealed within them a huge assortment of gold, bronze, amber, wooden and stone objects and sometime even well-preserved bodies. There have also been finds that include buildings and other structures. These can tell us about how and where people lived.
*It is easy to drown in a Bog, which is why it’s often referred to as a quagmire or quicksand.
*The peat found in Bogs is used for fertilizer, electricity and provides a habitat for many endangered species of plants, animals and insects.
Bogs in the U.S. are mostly found in the Great Lakes regions and along the East Coast.
*Fens differ from other forms of Wetland in that their water chemistry is pH neutral or alkaline.
*Fens have highly dissolved mineral levels but few plant nutrients.
*Fens are dominated by grasses and brown mosses.
*Fen have a high diversity of plant life including carnivorous (meat eating) plants!
*Fen are generally found near large lakes and rivers and form where the water gets trapped and becomes still.
*Fens act as ‘nature’s nursery’ to many of the planet’s small creatures providing safety until they are large enough to venture into open water on their own.
Fens in the U.S. are found primarily in the Northeast and the Great Lakes area.
E). Coastal Wetlands
*A Coastal Wetland is located in a coastal watershed.
*Coastal Wetlands in the U.S. Southeast are referred to as ‘Pocosins’.
*Coastal wetlands provide a barrier and protection from floods.
*Coastal Wetlands can absorb the energy created by water currents therefore preventing deterioration of the shorelines.
*Coastal Wetlands provide shelter for endangered animals and birds including the Whooping Crane and the Florida Panther.
*Over 50% of commercial fish and shellfish species in the Southeastern United States rely on coastal wetlands.
*Coastal Wetlands filter chemicals and sediment out of water before it is discharged into the ocean.
*Coastal Wetland ecosystems can gather and store large amounts of carbon due to their rapid growth rates and therefore slow decomposition rates.
*Coastal wetlands cover about 40 million acres and make up 38% of the total wetland acreage in the U.S.
81% of the Coastal Wetlands of the U.S. are located along the Southeast coast.
So next time you have the chance to slip on your waders and venture out into the swamps, remember to watch for the gators and take some good information with you!