What is a Wetland?
A wetland is place with water at or near the surface for a significant part of the growing season. Soils have formed in water saturated conditions allowing for special plants adapted to growing in this wet environment.
Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, comparable to rain forests and coral reefs. An immense variety of species of microbes, plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, fish and mammals can be part of a wetland ecosystem. Physical and chemical features such as climate, landscape shape (topology), geology and the movement and abundance of water help to determine the plants and animals that inhabit each wetland. The complex, dynamic relationships among the organisms inhabiting the wetland environment are referred to as food webs.
Wetlands are Protected
In 1972, US legislation enacted the Clean Water Act. Much of the regulation in Ohio is controlled by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (O-EPA) and the US Army Corp of Engineers. https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-clean-water-act
Wetland Plants in Ohio
The Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves and the Ohio Division of Wildlife created a field guide covering types of wetlands, the plants that inhabit them and why the wetlands are important. Its beautiful pictures and descriptive information will make your next visit to the wetlands a fun search for these plants and wetlands types.
Why are Wetlands Valuable?
The functions of a wetland and the values of these functions to human society depend on a complex set of relationships between the wetland and the other ecosystems in the watershed. A watershed is a geographic area in which water, sediments and dissolved materials drain from higher elevations to a common low-lying outlet or basin or a point on a larger stream, lake, underlying aquifer or estuary.
Wetlands play an integral role in the ecology of the watershed. The combination of shallow water, high levels of nutrients and primary productivity is ideal for the development of organisms that form the base of the food web and feed many species of fish, amphibians, shellfish and insects. Many species of birds and mammals rely on wetlands for food, water and shelter, especially during migration and breeding.
Wetlands’ microbes, plants and wildlife are part of global cycles for water, nitrogen and sulfur. Furthermore, scientists are beginning to realize that atmospheric maintenance may be an additional wetlands’ function. Wetlands store carbon within their plant communities and soil instead of releasing it to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Thus, wetlands help to moderate global climate conditions.