Saturday, April 13, 2013

To prove I am actually in school over here...

Just in case y'all were curious, I've decided to use this post as a method of studying wetland types for my Wetland Ecosystems class. If you don't care, just don't read on.

Now, if you ever wondered what the bleep the difference was between a swamp or a marsh, or what the hell a fen is, never fear. I've got you covered (Maybe. I'm learning too!). To make it fun, keep in mind every movie that's ever used one of these and we can test together if Hollywood always or never gets it right. See below, beautiful people.

Swamp: wetland dominated by trees.
Movie examples: Gollum calls that endless marsh a swamp, right? My memory is failing me. I think it would be a marsh. Maybe a fen. In any case...Don't follow the lights!

Marsh: wetland dominated by herbaceous plants
Movie examples: Lord of the Rings?

Bog: typically alkaline wetland dominated by peat-rooted sedges and sphagnum moss (I had to look that one up. It's a genus of moss commonly referred to as peat moss that can grow in wet habitats and stores lots of water really well, even when dead, and in drier conditions. That's cool, right?). Bog of Eternal Stench, anyone? Sounds better than Swamp of Eternal Stench.

Fen: wetland dominated by sedges and grasses rooted in shallow peat. Mostly common to Canada. Usually alkaline.
Movies: I have no idea...

Wet meadow: wetland dominated by herbaceous plants rooted in flooded soils. We've got lots of these in northern Arizona but there are hardly any in Australia because of the variable rainfall. At least, that's what my professor tells me. I feel like I've seen some wet meadows though. 
Movies: what movie line says "Hey, go check out that wet meadow over yonder!" Yeah, right. 

Shallow water: wetland community dominated by true aquatic plants in >25cm of water.
Movies: Again, not quite sure where this would be referenced in a movie.

Wetlands are important because water flow slows or becomes stagnant due to the presence of rooted plants. The slow-flowing water allows the plants to act as filters, trapping sediments and nutrients, which makes wetlands more productive than surrounding ecosystems. However, bacteria can use up the available oxygen really quickly especially in stagnant waters which can lead to rapid accumulation of methane, hydrogen sulphide, and ammonia (all causes of stinky wetlands). 

Wetland Function and Services (as taken from my class slide notes):

  • Runoff regulation and flood prevention (wetlands slow the velocity of water)
  • Soil erosion prevention and sediment control
  • Soil fertility maintenance
  • Organic matter and nutrients storage and recycling
  • Biological diversity maintenance
  • Carrier (human habitat, cultivation, recreation, aesthetics)
  • Production (produce oxygen, medicinal and genetic resources)
  • Information (historical, religious, spiritual)
Why else are wetlands important? They store an enormous amount of carbon and can act as carbon sinks. They are very sensitive to climatic changes especially at high latitudes, which are most threatened under a warming climate (think melting permafrost and a carbon sink suddenly becoming a carbon source). Additionally, wetlands areas are decreasing rapidly because of infilling, drainage, urban expansion, and peat extraction.

Maybe that wasn't fun per se but I hope you learned something. Helped me out. Time to take my quiz! 

New Zealand post is still in progress.

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