Book SectionsTable of Contents
The Problem Puddle Power Frog-Friendly Backyard Why are we concerned about amphibians?
Wetlands - function/type Wetland issues
How to help amphibians
Community Green Plans
The function and type of Wetlands
Wetlands are areas of land covered with shallow water or
have water at, or near, the surface for all or part of the year.
Generally, wetlands have wet soils that are low in oxygen, and
plants that are adapted to flooding and the lack of oxygen
around their roots. Special air chambers in wetland plant stems
carry oxygen from above the water to their roots. However, only
a few plant species have adapted to waterlogged soils and these
plants are common to many wetlands.
Wetlands are important for several reasons. They represent only a part of our land base but they shelter a great number of species. Many species only use the wetland for a small but important part of their life cycle, to breed and reproduce. Wetlands moderate water flow by absorbing much of the surface water runoff from the land, and then by slowly releasing it. Thus, wetlands help to reduce flooding and to sustain water flow during dry spells. Wetlands also play an important role in water quality by trapping sediments, and absorbing excess nutrients and heavy metals.
Adjacent land-use is an important consideration in wetland conservation. Wetlands that are connected to upland terrestrial or forested sites add value to the landscape. For this reason, "buffers" around wetlands should extend into and include nearby habitats or upstream terrestrial environments.
Wetlands discharge water to the watershed and recharge
underground aquifers. In some watersheds, wetlands may be
interdependent. One wetland may depend on groundwater or
discharge water flowing from another wetland. Thus, the loss of
each wetland may have unanticipated impacts elsewhere in the
watershed. We cannot expect our backyard wetland to replace
these intricate relationships, nor that a wetland constructed to
replace a drained site will have the same hydrological or wild life
On a community wide basis constructed wetlands can be very important. They can reduce peak flows to streams and maintain water levels during dry periods. Wetlands add a diversity of species to our communities by providing refuges for wetland wild life and by linking existing wetlands as stepping stones for wildlife. For example, toads can expand their range one wetland at a time and in this way reach new uncolonized wetlands and your backyard.
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