The land area where soil is saturated with moisture either permanently or seasonally are called Wetlands. These wetlands may be marshes, swamps, bogs etc. The water in these wetlands may be saltwater, freshwater or brackish water. It may be running or stagnant.
The wetlands are most biologically diverse of all ecosystems supporting numerous plant as well as animal lives.
The Ramsar convention on wetlands defines the wetland as follows:
wetlands are areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres.”
Study of Wetlands is called Paludology
World’s largest wetland is Pantanal, which is spread in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay.
Why Wetlands are important?
There are two important functions of Wetlands that make them so important in the climate change. One is the mitigation effect by which they are able to sink carbon. Another is adaptation by which they are able to store and regulate water. Wetlands have become a focal issue for conservation due to their biological production, ability to filter and store water, mitigate flood damages, importance in providing habitat and food for waterfowl, as well as the many other species they host.
The major functions of wetlands involve the water filtration, water storage, biological productivity, and provide habitat for wildlife.
Wetlands remove the excess nutrients and slow the water allowing particulates to settle out of the water which can then be absorbed into plant roots. It has been proved that up to up to 92% of phosphorus and 95% of nitrogen can be removed from passing water through a wetland. The pollutants get settled by sticking to the soil particles. Some wetlands accumulate the heavy metals and this decrease the pollutant load of the surrounding waters.
The wetlands support a vast and intricate food web and these complex food chains host various microbes and bacteria on which the invertebrates feed upon. These invertebrates can filter up to 90% of bacteria in this way.
The wetlands are able to store around 1-1.5 million gallons of floodwater per acre. The water is stored and is slowed. This allows the recharging of the groundwater.
The wetlands are able to absorb nutrients and are highly biologically productive because they produce biomass very quickly, almost equivalent to the tropical rainforests. The efficiency in creation of the biomass makes them important for the development of alternate sources of energy.
The wetlands are important wildlife habitats. Many species are dependent upon wetlands.