Portal:Wetlands

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Template:/box-header A wetland is a land area that is saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally, such that it takes on the characteristics of a distinct ecosystem. The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other land forms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation of aquatic plants, adapted to the unique hydric soil. Wetlands play a number of roles in the environment, principally water purification, flood control, carbon sink and shoreline stability. Wetlands are also considered the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, serving as home to a wide range of plant and animal life. Wetlands occur naturally on every continent except Antarctica, the largest including the Amazon River basin, the West Siberian Plain, and the Pantanal in South America. The water found in wetlands can be freshwater, brackish, or saltwater. The main wetland types include swamps, marshes, bogs, and fens; and sub-types include mangrove, carr, pocosin, and varzea.

The UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment determined that environmental degradation is more prominent within wetland systems than any other ecosystem on Earth. International conservation efforts are being used in conjunction with the development of rapid assessment tools to inform people about wetland issues.

Constructed wetlands can be used to treat municipal and industrial wastewater as well as stormwater runoff and they also play a role in water-sensitive urban design.

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Animation of Latoriţa River drainage basin, Romania
A drainage basin or catchment basin is an extent or an area of land where surface water from rain, melting snow, or ice converges to a single point at a lower elevation, usually the exit of the basin, where the waters join another waterbody, such as a river, lake, reservoir, estuary, wetland, sea, or ocean. For example, a tributary stream of a brook that joins a small river is tributary of a larger river, which is thus part of a series of successively smaller area but higher elevation drainage basins. Similarly, the Missouri and Ohio rivers are each part of their own drainage basins and that of the Mississippi River.

Other terms that are used to describe drainage basins are catchment, catchment area, drainage area, river basin and water basin. In North America, the term watershed is commonly used to mean a drainage basin, though in other English-speaking countries, it is used only in its original sense, to mean a drainage divide, the former meaning an area, the latter the high elevation perimeter of that area. Drainage basins drain into other drainage basins in a hierarchical pattern, with smaller sub-drainage basins combining into larger drainage basins.

In closed ("endorheic") drainage basins the water converges to a single point inside the basin, known as a sink, which may be a permanent lake, dry lake, or a point where surface water is lost underground. The drainage basin includes both the streams and rivers that convey the water as well as the land surfaces from which water drains into those channels, and is separated from adjacent basins by a drainage divide.

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Credit: Sayamindu Dasgupta from Cambridge, MA, United States.

Near Maroon Lake, Colorado.

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Did you know...

that a cloud forest is a tropical moist broadleaf forest with a persistent cloud cover?
...that a cloud forest is a moist forest with a persistent cloud cover?

(Pictured left: Suspension bridge in Costa Rica.)

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