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Contents:

Wetland and ecosystem Marine wetland and ecosystem Mangrove swamps Salt marshes Flood land ecosystem Bog ecosystem Aquatic ecosystem

WETLAND AND AQUATIC ECOSYSTEM


Wetland ecosystem:
Wetland, as their name suggests are wet ground rather than standing water. Unlike aquatic ecosystem, they develop an organic soil profile, but the saturation with water alters the community structure. The water logging of the soil tends to cause a problem for plants as anaerobic conditions are produced with little or no oxygen available. Wetlands have been described as a halfway world between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem. They are a transitional link between two extremes, and range from very nearly aquatic to almost dry. Indeed several wetland habitats dry out during dry seasons in the year and are then very difficult to identify as wetland at all. Water is very important factor in wetland ecosystem. There are four possible source of water, each of which has different properties:

1. 2. 3. 4.

The sea, sea water is highly saline and tidal. Streams and rivers, sediment rich and seasonally flooded. Drainage from surface runoff or groundwater, usually nutrient rich and basic. Directly from rain or snow, rain is nutrient poor and acidic.

For these reasons, the sources of water is used here as the basis of classification of wetland ecosystem.

Marine wetland ecosystem:


There examples are:

Mangrove swamps:
The coastline in the tropical and subtropical regions is inundated every high tide with marine or brackish waters. Wherever the wave action is too strong to prevent regeneration, these coastal wetlands are densely vegetated with thickets of mangroves trees. There are about 70 species of mangroves around the world, the most important genera being Rhizophora and Avicennia.

a variety of animals live within the mangroves including fiddler crabs, and mudskippers. The food web is based on the presence of many detritivores, but ascends to major carnivores like alligators, crocodiles and big cats such as tigers. The most unusual feature of mangrove swamps is the structure of tree. The tree has a whole series of aerial roots arising quite high up on the trunk and plunging into the mud beneath. Roots help to support the trees and lesson the wave action of incoming tides. Sometime considerable amounts of organic mud build up under the mangroves forest, and form many stick like structure protruding from the mud these are called Pneumatophores. And they take oxygen from the air that is lack in wet land.

Salt marshes:
In higher latitude the mangrove ecosystem disappear because the trees cannot tolerate even minor forest. They are replaced on the coastal strip by much lower growing ecosystem called Salt Marshes. The salt marshes are within the tidal influence of the sea and are inundated with salt water every high tide. Salt marshes tend to develop in sheltered intertidal regions where wave action is not too strong. Salt marshes vegetation is dominated by grasses such as Spartina and rushes. Salt marshes are high in phosphates but low in nitrogen, which may limit plant growth. When the soils dry out, sulphuric acid may form which lowers soil pH. In these marshes up to 70% of the net primary productivity is due to chemosynthetic bacteria which utilize the sulphur.

Flood land ecosystem:


The second group of wetland ecosystems is those which obtain their water from rivers. These wetlands are often extremely seasonal. They flood deeply with water when the river overflows its banks. This may happen during a rainy season, or when winter snows melt in the catchment area. Foodlands tend to occur in lowland, flat-bottomed valleys through which a large river meanders. Such areas can be very large on the flood plains of great rivers. Normally, the mature river will meander across a wide, flat plain which was created by sediment deposited in the past by the river. The channel in which the river flows builds up at the side into sandy banks called levees. It is only when the water reaches the top of these banks and overflows that the valley is flooded. The flood plain often has small permanent wetland areas which from when the river takes a new path on the valley floor, leaving behind an oxbow lake. These lakes slowly fill in with silt to from boggy areas. Often a flood plain will have several oxbow lakes in various stages of infill. When the river floods the valley, it carries with it clays silt and mineral nutrients which are deposited on the flood plain. This is because as the water slows down it loses its capacity to carry particles. The largest particles settle out of the water to from the sandy levees. The smaller silt

and clay particles are carried further by the floods and settle out only when the water stops flowing. This frequent addition of new material makes flooded valley soils nutrients rich. During the period of flooding, anaerobic conditions are created in the soil. This temporary condition seems to be the limiting factor which determines which communities grow on the site. The topography of the valley floor in relation to the river affects the number and duration of floods. Areas closest to the river tend to flood most often and those further away and on higher ground may only flood in very wet years. The species composition in the ecosystem changes with distance from the river. In many parts of the world flood lands have been cleared of their natural vegetation. The frequent flooding constantly enriches the soils and the proximity of the river makes it ideal for irrigation. These areas are very valuable for cultivation and many such areas, like the Nile valley in Egypt, have been farmed for thousands of years. In temperate zones, flood plains make excellent water meadows of rich grazing land, although the wet environment can harbor diseases and parasites which may infect grazing animals. The ecosystems in this category are found in areas of impeded drainage, where water runs off the surrounding land and collets, or where groundwater lies close to the surface. In some cases rivers and streams may also feed into the area. The land is flooded all year round. Swamp and marsh ecosystems are very variable in size and form, depth of soil and plant community structure. In general the can be divided into two major types: swamps, in which trees are the dominant vegetation; and marshes, which have large open areas of grasses and reeds. Swamp wetlands are dominated by trees similar to those found in the very wettest areas of flooded river valleys. Some of the most famous swamp areas occur in Florida (USA), where the very low-lying land is often flooded. Dominant tree species here include the swamp cypress and water tupelo. Marshes are wetland ecosystems which are dominated by grasses (Poaceae), sedges (Cyperaceae) and reeds (Juncaceae) rather than trees. The movement of groundwater, runoff and the addition of stream water usually marshes nutrient rich with a fairly high pH. Marshes are common in temperate zones. In the northern hemisphere, the same genera are usually dominant in both North America and Eurasia. These include Typha, Scripus, Phragmies, Cladium and Juncus. Each genus tends to dominate in a particular habitat where the marsh conditions suit it best. The species which live in marshes often have tough or very sharp-edged leaves (Cladium and Phragmites were used to roof houses because they were long lasting). These tough leaves may have evolved to deter large herbivores, such as swamp rhinoceros (Teleoceras and Elasmotherium spp.) and straight tusked elephant ( Loxodonta antique) in the Pliocene and Pleistocene (Tomkins, pers. Com.). Since these animals have become extinct, their absence has these animals have become extinct, relatively untouched.

Most leaf matter falls to the wet marsh surface and is attacked by decomposers which from the base of the rest of the food web. The leaf litter often builds up into a peaty layer. This is especially so in fenland, although the thickness of fen peat is never as great as seen in bogs.

Bog ecosystem:
The fourth category of wetlands is true bog land. It receives water only from rainfall, not from streams, rivers or groundwater. This sole source of water greatly affects the nutrient content of bog lands, rainwater has very little nutrient content, unlike river and groundwater, and as it drains through the soil profile it tends to leach out any remaining nutrients. The dominant species in bogs are mosses in the genus Sphagnum. Many different Sphagnum species are found in bogs, each with slightly different water requirements. The mosses grow upwards and their lowermost leaves decay and join the peat building up beneath. Wherever rainfall in high and temperatures cool, so that water loss by evapotranspiration is less than water gain from rain Sphagnum bog tends to develop. If rainfall is high, above about 1000mm a year, blanket bog can develop even on shallow slopes. The peat in blanket bog can build up to several meters thick. This peat is vulnerable to erosion as it is easily washed away once the surface vegetation has been damaged by trampling, gazing or pollution. The peat is washed away leaving deep gullies which gradually widen as more peat washes into them. The high rainfall leaches nutrients from the bog. The pH is also very low, often about 3-4, caused by humic acids and sulphuric acid formed when organic sulphur is oxidized. Few plant species other than Sphagnum mosses can grow in these conditions. Those which do will hive often evolved methods of increasing their nutrient intake. The whole bog community is slow growing and short. Primary productivity is low, with only small populations of herbivores such as insects, hares and bog lemmings and a few predators such as spiders and owls. The larger herbivores and predators like deer, caribou and bears roam over a much wider area, although they may enter bogs from time to time.

Aquatic ecosystem:
Aquatic ecosystems are found in marine habitats, brackish estuaries, river, streams, lakes and ponds. Lake and pond ecosystems are considered here as they are the most likely habitats to occur in association with the wetlands already described. Ponds are really at one end of the size range of standing water bodies. Many of the smaller and shallower ponds are ephemeral: they turn into muddy hollows in dry seasons. The pond life in these ecosystems has to be well adapted for survival of such extreme conditions, or mobile

enough to move to another pond. Once a pond reaches a fairly arbitrary size, it can be called a lake. Lakes may be supplied by rivers, or only be fed by rainfall and surface runoff. Lake Ecosystem has a wide variety of communities depending on their size, depth, and edge structure and water source: but they do have many features in common. The presence of deep standing water in the ecosystem produces an environment with many unusual properties. First, the amount of light penetrating the lake varies with depth and clarity of water. Really deep or murky lakes have much of their environment below the photic zone within which active photosynthesis takes place. Most of the primary producers have floating leaves, or grow underwater only in the shallower parts. Second, the properties of water when heated can have quite astounding effects on lake ecosystems. In summer, lakes receive heat from the sun. This warms up the surface of the water. This warmed water expands and therefore, because it is less dense than the cooler water beneath, remain as a surface layer. The surface waters may be many degrees warmer than the bottom water. The region of changeover of temperature is called the metalimnion. This rapid changeover in temperature between the warmer epilimnion and cooler hypolimnion is called the thermocline. This stratification prevents the mixing of above can sink to the bottom and decay there; there is little transfer of soluble substance such as minerals and dissolved oxygen or carbon dioxide. If the lake is fertile (eutrophic), primary productivity will be high, and considerable amounts of debris may fall to the hypolimnion. As the organic matter decomposes, the oxygen in the water is used up, but cannot be replaced because of the stratification. On the other hand, the nutrients in the epilimnion are taken in by the plants, and then carried down to the hypolimnion when they die. This results in a temporary drop in fertility in the upper zones. If the lake is infertile there will be very low primary productivity, so very little debris falls below the thermocline. These infertile (oligotrophic) lakes, therefore, do not develop anoxic bottom waters. The stratification in lakes periodically breaks down and the water remixes. In eutrophic lakes the bottom waters are reoxygenated and the upper ones replenished with nutrients. In most lakes partial mixing occurs several times a year, and total mixing at least once a year. Temperate lakes become very cold in winter. Ice forms on the surface of lakes at 0 C yet the bottom waters are at about 4 C. This is because water at 4 C is denser than colder or warmer water, so it sinks to the bottom. The lake waters are well mixed from the autumn turnover and the temperatures are cool enough to prevent anoxic conditions or mineral depletion. In spring, as the lake warms up, phytoplankton flourish and stratification begins to occur but daily turnover is easily triggered. Later in the summer stratification becomes more severe, nutrients are depleted, the phytoplankton decreases and sinks to the bottom, and the thermocline becomes well developed. At this time of year the temperature difference across the thermocline may be as o much as 20 C. The lake mixes again as it cools in autumn when the surface waters are replenished with nutrients and the bottom waters with oxygen. There may be another bloom of
o o o

phytoplankton before the winter temperatures fall too low. In the tropics the difference between o the epilimnion and the hypolimnion may be only 2 or 3 C, yet in some lakes the thermocline is very stable so that hardly any mixing occurs.

Reference:
Manuel C.Moller Jr. Ecology concepts and application.