What makes a wetland a wetland? (Part 1)

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Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey Wetland and Aquatic Research Center study important aspects of wetlands, such as the flow and quality of water, the chemistry of soil, and the plants and animals which call this ecosystem home. In this video, we learn about three characteristics you can use to identify a wetland near you. 

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Length: 00:01:27

Location Taken: US

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No additional permissions needed. Footage by USGS WARC and CWPPRA staff. Music royalty free from www.bensound.com. Script and voice by Kelly Guilbeau (Contractor for USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center).



What makes a wetland a wetland? We can start by looking at three main characteristics:

First, is there water present for some or all of the year? Hydrology, or the flow of water, might be apparent if water is visible and covering the soil, but it might not be so obvious if water has seeped into the ground!

If that’s the case, does the soil look mucky or waterlogged? Perhaps it has a grey/blue color or even smells like rotten eggs because of its high concentration of sulfur. This is called hydric soil, which is a specific type of soil that supports the growth of wetland plants.

Speaking of plants, take a look at the vegetation. Are there plants capable of being submerged in water for extended periods of time? Many wetland plants, known as hydrophytic vegetation, have adapted to withstand wetland conditions like low oxygen or changing water levels.

 If you can answer yes to all of these, you might just have yourself a wetland!

Here at the U.S. Geological Survey Wetland and Aquatic Research Center, we explore these wetland characteristics and so much more. Stay tuned for next week’s video where we’ll wade into the water of wetlands!