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Explained: What are Wetlands and Why are they important?

Wetlands are places where water covers the soil or is present at or close to the soil's surface all year long or intermittently throughout

By Babra Wani
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Wetlands are places where water covers the soil or is present at or close to the soil's surface all year long or intermittently throughout the year, including during the growing season.

A wetland is a piece of land that either has water on it or is heavily saturated with it. The liquid is frequently groundwater that seeps out of a spring or aquifer. Water for a wetland may also originate from a nearby lake or river. Seawater can also produce wetlands, particularly in coastal regions with high tides.

At least part of the year, a wetland is completely submerged in water. This seasonal flooding has varying levels of intensity and duration. Transitional areas include wetlands. They are not entirely underwater or completely on dry land.

The vegetation that surrounds a marsh depends on how saturated the soil is. Wetland plants have special adaptations to their hydric (watery) soil. Hydrophytes are plants that grow in wetlands. Wetlands that experience seasonal dryness or have slow-moving water can frequently host trees and other hardy vegetation. Mosses or grasses are the predominant hydrophytes in flooded wetlands. Swamps, peatlands, sloughs, marshes, muskegs, bogs, fens, potholes, and mires are some of the various names for wetlands. The three main types of wetlands are, in the opinion of the majority of scientists, swamps, marshes, and bogs.

Different types of wetlands may include different plant communities, each of which contains species that have been suited to the local hydrology (the quantity, distribution, and movement of water throughout a given area). Because they are uniquely adapted to flourish in saturated soils, wetland plants are frequently referred to as hydrophytes. While many other species use wetlands for feeding, resting, or other life activities, many birds, insects, and other wildlife species are totally dependent on wetlands for crucial stages in their life cycles.

Importance of Wetlands

Wetlands make up about 4.63 per cent of India's land area. The nation's wetlands have been mapped in total to a total of 757,060.

Wetlands are significant landscape elements that offer a variety of useful functions to both people and fish and animals. Some of these services, or functions, include sustaining surface water flow during dry spells, providing fish and wildlife habitats, preserving and increasing water quality, and storing floodwaters. The distinctive natural properties of wetlands lead to these beneficial activities. Wetlands are essential for preserving numerous natural cycles and providing habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. They offer the fish and grains that feed billions while also cleaning and replenishing the water resources. They shield the coastlines, act as a natural sponge against flooding and drought, and contribute to the fight against climate change.

Some of the benefits of wetlands are enlisted below:-

  1. Better water quality:- Wetlands can catch surface runoff before it enters open water and filter contaminants via biological, chemical, and physical processes.
  2. Control of erosion:- Shorelines and streambanks are shielded from erosion by riparian wetlands, salt marshes, and lakes' margin marshes. Wetland plants' roots stabilise the soil and can slow down river or stream currents.
  3. Flood mitigation:- Wetlands can be useful for preventing floods by collecting and storing floodwater.
  4. Enhancing the habitat:- Wetlands can improve habitat for both game species and non-game ones. In addition, threatened and endangered animals can find a home in wetlands.
  5. Water source:- Wetlands can have a positive impact on the water supply because they operate as watershed reservoirs and release held water into surface and groundwater

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