Scientists Say: Wetland | Science News for Students

Scientists Say: Wetland

This is an area that’s inundated with water at least part of the time
Apr 15, 2019 — 6:30 am EST
alligator wetland

This alligator is hanging out in a wetland.

cbeverly/GettyiStock

Wetland (noun, “WET-land”)

A wetland is an area of land that is completely soaked with water or flooded. It can be soaked all year round, or just for a season or two. Marshes, swamps and bogs are all different kinds of wetland. But wetlands are more than just a flooded piece of land. They are their own kinds of ecosystems. Wetlands can be inland, or on coasts. They can be freshwater like a swamp or saltwater like a salt marsh. They can even be a brackish mixture of the two, like a mangrove forest.

Wetlands play important roles. They filter pollutants from the water as it flows from streams and rivers toward lakes and oceans. They protect the shoreline from washing away during coastal storms, such as hurricanes. Wetlands are also important shelters and feeding grounds for animals including baby shrimp, oysters and fish.

In a sentence

Alligators can hang out in fresh or saltwater wetlands — and have been caught dining on sharks.

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Power Words

(more about Power Words)

brackish    A term for water that contains a mixture of saltwater and freshwater.

cyclone     A strong, rotating vortex, usually made of wind. Notable examples include a tornado or hurricane.

ecosystem     A group of interacting living organisms — including microorganisms, plants and animals — and their physical environment within a particular climate. Examples include tropical reefs, rainforests, alpine meadows and polar tundra. The term can also be applied to elements that make up some an artificial environment, such as a company, classroom or the internet.

filter     (in chemistry and environmental science) A device or system that allows some materials to pass through but not others, based on their size or some other feature. (in physics) A screen, plate or layer of a substance that absorbs light or other radiation or selectively prevents the transmission of some of its components.

hurricane     A tropical cyclone that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and has winds of 119 kilometers (74 miles) per hour or greater. When such a storm occurs in the Pacific Ocean, people refer to it as a typhoon.

mangrove    A type of shrub or tree that lives mostly in coastal swamps and usually has long, tangled, above-ground roots.

organism     Any living thing, from elephants and plants to bacteria and other types of single-celled life.

pollutant    A substance that taints something — such as the air, water, our bodies or products. Some pollutants are chemicals, such as pesticides. Others may be radiation, including excess heat or light. Even weeds and other invasive species can be considered a type of biological pollution.

shark     A type of predatory fish that has survived in one form or another for hundreds of millions of years. Cartilage, not bone, gives its body structure.

sharks     A family of primitive fishes that rely on skeletons formed of cartilage, not bone. Like skates and rays, they belong to a group known as elasmobranchs. Then tend to grow and mature slowly and have few young. Some lay eggs, others give birth to live young.

wetland     As the name implies, this is a low-lying area of land either soaked or covered with water much of the year. It hosts plants and animals adapted to live in, on or near water.