wetlands

Wetland Functions and Values: Surface and Ground Water Protection

Wetland bordering farmland - field of corn stubbleMany pollutants are washed by rainfall from urban and agricultural lands and are carried overland to water bodies. Pollutants include soil particles, fertilizers, pesticides, grease and oil from cars and trucks, and road salts. Wetlands can improve water quality by removing pollutants from surface waters.

Restore

Wetland restoration is the process of returning a degraded wetland to an approximation of its pre-disturbance condition. The United States lost over half of its wetlands since European colonization in the early 1600s, and Vermont lost as much as 35 percent. Until recently, wetlands were seen as obstacles to development, agriculture, and travel, and were systematically drained and altered.

Conserve and Protect

Wetland conservation and protection is aimed at preventing the loss of wetlands and the functions and values they provide. The United States lost over half of its wetlands since European colonization in the early 1600s, and Vermont lost as much as 35 percent. Until recently, wetlands were seen as obstacles to development, agriculture, and travel, and were systematically drained and altered. Conversion of wetlands was accepted practice as recently as the 1950s, and was even incentivized by government policies.

Hydrophytic Vegetation

Wetland plants, or hydrophytic "water loving" vegetation, are those plants which have adapted to growing in the low-oxygen (anaerobic) conditions associated with prolonged saturation or flooding. These plants have adapted to anaerobic soil conditions by evolving alternative methods of collecting oxygen such as the hypertrophied lenticels in the bark of speckled alder; the hollow stems of rush and grass species; and the air filled cells (aerenchyma) in the roots of cattails.

Hydric Soils

Wetland soil characteristics form when soil is continuously saturated for periods of one or two weeks or more during the growing season. The parent material influences how the soil retains water, and the hydric (wet) soil characteristics that form. The biology of the soil also influences hydric soil characteristics. Under saturated conditions, soil micro-organisms can rapidly use up the oxygen in the soil, which can change its color and appearance. 

Wetland Hydrology

Floodplain Forest Wetland
Floodplain Forest Wetland
Wetland hydrology refers to the timing and extent of flooding or soil saturation and is considered to be the "driving force" in wetland formation. Rainfall, soil permeability, position in the landscape, surrounding land use, and type of vegetation all influence the hydrology of a wetland.

Wetland Identification and Delineation

The saturated or seasonally saturated conditions in wetlands create an environment that favors the growth of specifically adapted wetland plants (hydrophytic vegetation) and promotes the development of wetland soils (hydric soils).

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