Source: D4K: “Wetlands"
Visit the D4K companion Web site to learn more about Wetlands: D4K: “Wetlands"
This video segment from IdahoPTV's D4K defines wetlands (slough, swamp, bog, marsh, and riparian zones) by their 3 characteristics: water, hydric soil, hydrophytes. It stresses why wetlands are critical for wildlife survival.
[JOAN CARTAN-HANSEN] Wetlands are critical to wildlife. At one time or another in their lives most of the world's wildlife will use wetlands. And for many of these animals these wetlands are the key to their survival.
So what is a wetland? It could be a marsh, a slew, a swamp, a bog or even an area on a riverbank called a riparian zone. All of these have three parts that together classify an area as a wetland. The main element is water. This drives the other two. A special kind of soil and water loving plants that flourish in this earth. The plants are called hydrophytes. Hydro means water and phytes is the word for plants. The water doesn't have to be there all the time for an area to be a wetland but it must be there long enough to produce those special kinds of plants and soil. Hydrophytes are plants that have adapted to wet conditions. Unlike other plants these don't suffocate and rot in water-soaked soil.
A good example of this kind of plant is a cat tail. And down near the roots of these plants you'll find a special kind of mud called hydric soil. Rich and black, it's composed of organic material - plants that have died and built up without breaking down like they do in drier soils. And so these three elements - water, hydric soils, and hydrophytes make up a wetland and we're just beginning to become aware of their value.
So why are wetlands so essential? Well, they're extremely important for wildlife. Birds like the great blue heron would not exist without wetlands. Wetlands are also critical summer breeding areas for ducks and geese. Wetlands also serve as an important stopover point for migrating water fowl. Wetlands are important to other animals too. Some of the less obvious wetlands are places like these - the thin, green lines that wind through the high deserts of Idaho. it's a narrow strip of relatively lush vegetation surrounded by more arid upland. Areas like this, along the banks of a stream flourish with plant life. Cottonwoods, willows and shrubs hug the river. They draw their existence from its waters. These thin, green lines are the lifeblood of idaho's desert wildlife. Fish, insects, frogs and song birds and other species depend on these critical wetlands to survive.
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