Wetlands are those areas where the soil is covered with water or can be present near the ground throughout the year. It supports both terrestrial and aquatic species. They vary widely depending on the climate, soil, vegetation, hydrology, chemistry, and human disturbance. These areas can be found from the tundra to the tropics apart from Antarctica. The water found in the wetland is of two types. It is either brackish, saltwater, or freshwater.
From types to climate and hydrology of wetland, everything has been discussed below to create a clear concept about what is a wetland.
IAS aspirants must also learn about Wetlands International, a global not-for-profit organisation for conservation and restoration of marshlands.
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What are the different types of wetlands?
There are four main types of wetlands: marsh, swamp, fen and bog. All of these wetlands have been briefly described below:
These are the kind of wetlands that are frequently flooded with water and have vegetation from saturated soil conditions. Marshes are of various kinds, such as coastal, inland, saltwater, freshwater, everglades and prairie potholes. Some of these marshes are fed by groundwater, and some are provided by water beneath the surface.
Wetlands that are covered by woody plants are referred to as swamp. Swamps are of various kinds based on the quality of the saturated soil during season growth. Numerous rare species are dependent on this ecosystem. Two major types of swamps are forest swamps and shrub swamps.
This wetland receives nutrients from precipitation. This comes from upslope sources like drainage and groundwater movement. Thus, this form of wetland has a higher nutrient level than that of the bogs. When fen starts receiving lesser nutrients, it turns into a bog. One can find these wetland forms in the north-eastern parts of the United States, Canada, Rocky Mountains and places with a short growing season and low temperature.
This is a unique form of wetlands found in North America. They can be recognised through thick sphagnum moss and acidic waters. These forms of wetlands in India and elsewhere are low in nutrients and hence cannot support plant growth. They have a significant contribution towards preventing downstream flooding through the absorption of precipitation.
How are wetlands formed?
When saturated conditions prevail for a significant time in an area during the growing season, it makes the area anaerobic and it gives birth to wetlands. Some wetlands are formed over a period of time, and some form very quickly. Some of the creators of wetlands include
- Flooding of coastal lowlands
- River floodplains
- Different forces of nature
Some wetlands are artificially made for the restoration process and its development. Consistent high water tables and frequent flooding lead to the formation of wetlands. Wetlands formed by beavers may last more than a hundred years and some for a little less. This is one of the essential sections of the UPSC Syllabus.
What is wetland hydrology?
Wetland hydrology means the extent and timing of soil saturation. It is one of the most fundamental reasons for the formation of wetlands. Hydrology is regarded as the most important amongst the other parameters of wetlands. Still, it can also be difficult to ensure appropriate determination of the field due to the level of the water which frequently varies.
When is Wetland Day?
World Wetlands Day is observed on 2nd February. It was first observed in 1971. For a detailed background and history about this day, aspirants can visit the linked article.
All of the above material on the wetland will help candidates prepare for the IAS exam. It will help them in developing a constructive understanding of the chapter.
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Frequently Asked Questions about Wetlands
How does salinity impact wetlands?
Climate changes are the fundamental factor for wetland salinity. Natural resources problems also create salinity like vegetation, water quality, climate regulation etc. This salinity, in turn, impacts the wetland by decreasing the amount of inorganic nitrogen removal. This further leads to the development of physiological stress in the wetland biota. Not only this, but the composition and productivity of wetland species will also go through major alteration causing a hindrance towards interspecific interaction.
What are the different factors responsible for wetland hydrology?
The several factors that are responsible for the hydrology of wetland include landscape’s position, rainfall, form of vegetation and use of surrounding land. Soil permeability is also an important contributor.
What are the benefits of wetlands?
From food habitat to wildlife and fish to prevention of endangered species, there are quite a few collective benefits that wetlands offer. They help in maintaining the natural cycles and supports huge biodiversity.