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[Introduction | Kinds | Climate | Geography | Plant Life | Animal Life | Human Life]

The geography of wetlands involves landforms, elevation, and soil.


Landforms found in wetlands depend upon location, soil characteristics, weather, water chemistry, dominant plants, and human interference. Their physical features are often short-lived, especially if they are near floodplains or rivers, which can cause abrupt changes. Wetlands usually form in a basin where the ground is depressed, or along rivers and the edges of lakes.


Wetlands can be found at many elevations (the height of an area in relation to sea level). Some wetlands in the Rocky Mountains in North America, for example, are at an elevation of 10,000 feet (3,048 meters).

Elevation is used to help classify some wetlands in Ireland. Bogs that are less than 656 feet (200 meters) above sea level are called Atlantic blanket bogs. Those that are more than 656 feet (200 meters) above sea level are called mountain blanket bogs.


An important characteristic of a wetland is its soil. Soil composition helps to determine the type of wetland and what plants and animals can survive in it. Almost all wetland soils are at least periodically saturated. Wetland soils are hydric. This means that they contain a lot of water but little oxygen. The plants that live in wetlands are only those that can adapt to these wet soils. The nutrients in the soil often depend upon the water supply. If the water source is primarily rain, the wetland soils do not receive as many minerals as those fed by groundwater. Soil in floodplains is very rich and full of nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus.

In some bogs associated with forests, decaying plant matter fully decomposes and is combined with sediments to form muck. This type of soil is dark and glue-like. To classify as muck, soil must contain not less than 20 percent organic (derived from living organisms) matter.

[Introduction | Kinds | Climate | Geography | Plant Life | Animal Life | Human Life]

Source: "Wetland." U·X·L Encyclopedia of Biomes, Vol. 3. U·X·L, Detroit: 2000.

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