The Mitsubishi Wild Wetland Trail offers a glimpse into freshwater wetland habitats. Wetlands occur in low-lying areas where water covers the ground above or just below surface of the soil. Some wetlands are temporary, filling with water only during certain times of the year or after heavy rainfall. Others are permanent, always containing water. Many types of wetlands can be found across North America; the Wetland Trail features a marsh, a swamp, and a pond.
A wide variety of plants thrives in wetlands, including tall trees, dense shrubs, waving grasses, plants that float on the surface of the water, and plants that grow under water. These plants and the birds, mammals, fish, and insects that flourish in wetlands develop adaptations—distinct features that allow them to survive in moist conditions. The interactions among the living things within these ecosystems allow wetlands to act as nature’s sponge. They control flooding by absorbing water during storms. When water levels are low they keep the area moist by slowly releasing moisture into the air and soil around them. Wetlands also act as natural filters by trapping pollutants, thereby improving the quality of the water that flows through them.
Wetland soils provide ideal living conditions for microscopic organisms. Many of these microorganisms help with decomposition, breaking down dead plants and animals. This recycling process makes wetlands one of the world’s most efficient natural communities.
A marsh is a wetland that contains shallow water. Grasses and grass-like plants such as common cattails grow here. Their leaves can be seen above the surface of the water.
There are many different types of marshes. Some may contain freshwater while others near the ocean are filled with saltwater. Freshwater marshes like this one provide food, water, and shelter to animals, including frogs, turtles, fish, muskrats, birds, and insects.
A swamp is a wetland that contains trees and shrubs. Swamps may start out as lakes, ponds, or other shallow bodies of water. Over time, trees and shrubs begin to grow in the water, and the level of water slowly decreases as more and more plants grow. Some swamps may have water year-round, while others have no water during certain seasons.
A pond is a depression in the ground that fills with water over time. Permanent ponds such as this one exist year-round. Temporary ponds can form in spring when rain and melting snow fill low-lying areas with water. This creates a seasonal habitat for frogs and other amphibians.
Many animals such as herons, ducks, and other birds make their homes in and around ponds. Insects, including damselflies and dragonflies, hunt for food on the surface of the water. Muskrats, fish, frogs, and salamanders rely on ponds for food and habitat. Plants such as cattails and water lilies grow with their roots in the soil below the surface and their leaves and flowers above. Other plants grow entirely under water.
Birds of the Wetlands
The animals that inhabit wetlands are as diverse as the plants that grow in these areas. The unique soil and water conditions of wetlands caused these animals and plants to form adaptations over the course of generations. The interaction between the living things and their environment allows wetlands to perform important natural functions, including filtering water and preventing soil erosion.
Birds such as herons, red-winged blackbirds, egrets, ducks, and hawks depend on wetlands for food and as nesting sites. While exploring the Mitsubishi Wild Wetland Trail keep an eye on the cattails (Typha latifolia). Red-winged blackbirds build nests in the groups of cattails alongside the marsh of the Wetland Trail. Great blue herons can be found along the edge of the Trail’s pond hunting for fish, frogs, or small animals.