A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is that is either covered by water or saturated with water.
Wetlands are found all over the world, in every climate from the frozen landscape of Alaska to the hot zones near the equator.
They are most abundant in boreal and tropical regions, though a wide variety of inland and coastal wetlands are also found in temperate regions.
Wetlands play a number of functions, including water purification, water storage, processing of carbon and other nutrients, stabilization of shorelines, and support of plants and animals.
The water in wetlands is either freshwater, brackish, or saltwater.
The largest wetlands include the Amazon River basin, the West Siberian Plain, the Pantanal in South America, and the Sundarbans in the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta.
Wetlands are among the world’s most productive environments with high biodiversity (a large variety of life forms). Only rain forests and coral reefs have more biodiversity.
The rich biodiversity of wetlands has led to their being described as “biological supermarkets” and “nurseries of life”.
Many plant and animal species live in the wetlands, including a number of rare and endangered species. The plants that grow in wetlands provide shelter from predators for prey species and nesting areas for birds, while the water gives fish and shellfish a place to spawn. Some animal species spend their entire lives in the wetlands, while others need to visit the wetlands to breed or raise offspring.
Insects and invertebrates total more than half of the 100,000 known animal species in wetlands.
Fish are more dependent on wetland ecosystems than any other type of habitat.
Birds, particularly waterfowl and wading birds, use wetlands extensively. Migratory birds often stop in wetlands to rest.
Mammals include numerous small and medium-sized species such as voles, bats, minks and platypus in addition to large herbivorous and apex species such as beavers, otters, coypus, muskrats, foxes, deer and bobcats.
Lying mostly in Western Brazil but extending into Bolivia and Paraguay as well, the Pantanal is the world’s largest and most important wetlands of any kind. The Pantanal (which is Spanish for ‘marshland’) covers a surface area of 150,000 square kilometers (57,915 square miles) (greater than the total surface area of England! During the rainy season (December-May), 80 per cent of the Pantanal is flooded, and it contains the greatest diversity of water plants in the world.
The Atchafalaya Basin or Atchafalaya Swamp is the largest wetland and swamp in the United States. Located in south central Louisiana, it is a combination of wetlands and river delta area where the Atchafalaya River and the Gulf of Mexico converge.
The Everglades is a wetland located in the southern portion of the US State of Florida. The wetland isabout 160 kilometers (100 miles) long and 100 km (60 miles) wide. It spans from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay and is often referred to as the “true Everglades” or just “the Glades.”
Kakadu wetlands, located in the northern territory of Australia, is spread nearly to 20,000 square kilometers. Kakadu is home to exceptional natural beauty and unique biodiversity. It has been inscribed as a World Heritage listing because of both its cultural and natural values.
France hosts one of the famous wetlands in the world known as Camargue. The bast time to visit the Camargue Natural Park area is during spring and the autumn because during that time thousands of birds migrate to the park’s wetlands. Bird-watchers from all over the world visit Camargue in huge numbers during this season. There are also semi-wild white horses that have roamed the wetlands for thousands of years.
Europe’s largest urban wetland lies just 15 minutes from central London. After a £10.6 million regeneration project, Walthamstow Wetlands opened to the general public for the first time in 150 years in October 2017. Owned by Thames Water, the 10 reservoirs here supply 3.5 million households, but they’re also a haven for water birds like gadwall and shoveler, a stopover for migrating birds such as lapwings and sandpipers, and a breeding ground for kingfishers.
The term “wetland” was first used formally in 1953, in a report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that provided a framework for a later publication concerning waterfowl habitat in the United States.
Wetlands provide innumerable economic, ecological, cultural, recreational, and aesthetic values.
The UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment determined that environmental degradation is more prominent within wetland systems than any other ecosystem on Earth.