What Is a Freshwater Wetland?

Susan Grindstaff

A freshwater wetland is an area of land covered or saturated with water for extended periods of time. The supply of fresh water can come from a nearby body of water, such as a creek or river. In some cases, the land mass may sit on an underground supply of water, called an aqueduct. Some of the most common types of freshwater wetlands include marshes, swamps, and bogs.

Raccoons can sometimes be found in wooded areas around wetlands.
Raccoons can sometimes be found in wooded areas around wetlands.

A marsh is a type of coastal freshwater wetland that may be periodically covered by less than 6 feet (1.83 m) of water. Most marshes are covered in grass, bushes, and flowers, and are not usually areas that promote tree growth. Marshes are attractive to a wide variety of birds including herons, egrets, and geese. Other animals that live in and around marshes are otters, muskrats, and minks. Marshes are also home to many varieties of frogs, snakes, and turtles.

Swamps are a common form of freshwater wetland.
Swamps are a common form of freshwater wetland.

Swamps are similar to marshes in many ways, but unlike marshes, they do promote excessive tree growth. In addition, unlike marshes, much of the land within a swamp may be fairly dry throughout the year. Swamps are host to many exotic types of animals including alligators, caimans, and nutrias. These wetlands are also home to many types of snakes and turtles, including cottonmouths, water moccasins, and snake-necked turtles. Bears, deer, and raccoons often live in the dense wooded areas that usually surround swamps.

Inland wetlands, like lakes, contain freshwater.
Inland wetlands, like lakes, contain freshwater.

A bog is a type of freshwater wetland that is saturated, but not completely covered by water. In most cases, bogs have soil compositions that are poor and do not promote plant growth. Most bogs are covered in grass, but seldom have shrubs, trees, or flowers. In general, a bog biome is not attractive to most animals; however, in this type of environment, insect life can thrive. Butterflies and dragonflies are often found in bogs, as are several different types of mosquitoes.

Turtles often live in wetlands.
Turtles often live in wetlands.

Freshwater wetlands can exist in most any type of climate, excluding deserts. They can be found in tropical areas well below the equator as well as in ice-cold polar environments. One of the most important factors in preserving a freshwater wetland is that whatever the climate, it should not drastically change. Extreme changes in rainfall amounts or temperature can have devastating effects on the biome of wetlands. Without favorable weather, the areas can dry up, losing much of the animal and plant life that live within the biome.

An otter from a freshwater wetland.
An otter from a freshwater wetland.
Paramecia are widespread in freshwater environments.
Paramecia are widespread in freshwater environments.
A frog from a freshwater wetland.
A frog from a freshwater wetland.
A freshwater wetland.
A freshwater wetland.
Minks often live in and around freshwater wetlands.
Minks often live in and around freshwater wetlands.
Alligators live in freshwater wetlands.
Alligators live in freshwater wetlands.

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