Pub. date: 2011 | Online Pub. Date: May 04, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412973816 | Print ISBN: 9781412996822 | Online ISBN: 9781412973816| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
A. Vernon Woodworth
The term wetlands encompasses a wide variety of topographic conditions, including swamps, bogs, marshes, fens, pocosins, and vernal pools. The defining characteristics of all of these locations is frequent saturation (whether by saltwater or fresh), a high level of biodiversity and energy transfer, and extreme sensitivity to human interference. The Environmental Protection Act (40 CFR 230.3(t)) defines wetlands as “those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions.” Wetlands are significant because of their contribution to the health and stability of both the terrestrial and the aquatic habitats that they straddle. Wetlands have been called ecotones —a term that describes a transitional ecosystem between two adjacent and distinct communities. It is this transitional position that gives wetlands both their fertility and ...