Wetlands

Wetlands are one of the most varied habitats, home to many kinds of animals and plants. They are very important for wildlife because there is a lot of food in a wetland. Many species of birds breed and raise their young in wetlands. Ducks, geese, swans, and loons are among the birds that migrate between wetlands in the north and south all year. The abundance of water makes wetlands ideal habitats for insects and the animals that eat them, like bats and swallows, and amphibians like frogs and salamanders. Reptiles, such as turtles, snakes, and alligators, are also common in wetlands. With so many animals breeding in wetlands, mammal predators often roam there looking for prey. They are habitats rich with wildlife.

Sign of the Times

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Did You Know?

Bog Mummies

Some bogs are so acidic that when a human body is found in one they are often preserved almost like a mummy, even if they are hundreds of years old. The oldest body found in a bog was in Denmark and is thought to be 10,000 years old!

Many of the animals on the endangered species list live in wetlands, including:

  • Alaotra grebe

  • Aquatic box turtle

  • Atlantic, Chinook, Coho, sockeye, and chum salmon

  • Bog turtle

  • California tiger salamander

  • Catfish

  • Hawaiian common moorhen

  • Spotted pond turtle

  • Steelhead trout

  • Sturgeon

  • Many Kinds of Wetlands

    Though all wetlands have water in common, there are many different kinds of wetlands in the world. There are marshes that are often found on the edges of ponds and lakes. Marshes are open wetlands dotted with reeds, sedges, and grass, like cattails. Swamps, on the other hand, are often thick with shrubs and even trees. Walking through a swamp can be hard and even dangerous. Mangrove swamps form along coastlines where rivers meet the sea. The water there is brackish, which means that it is a little salty, but not as salty as the ocean. Mangroves are important for protecting shorelines from storm flooding and erosion.

    Bogs form from shallow ponds that have slowly collected plants and leaves until they are thick with them and other plants like moss and ferns root right over the water in the rotting plant matter. Over time this makes a thick mat on top of the water that is called peat. Like plastic wrap over a bowl, no air can get in and the rotting plants beneath build up acids. As a result things that fall into bogs rot very, very slowly. These are just a few of the many kinds of wetlands in the world.

    Watch Out for Hungry Plants Wetlands have so much water that the soil can actually be washed free of its nutrients. Plants have to be adapted to a water habitat to survive there. A few kinds of plants have adapted and get extra nutrients by trapping and absorbing insects! Pitcher plants, sundews, and Venus flytraps all are insectivorous plants found in wetlands. Each plant has its own amazing adaptation for trapping insect prey.

    Pitcher plants trap insects by having a sweet smell and red lines running down inside the pitcher like leaves like a runway. Insects follow the lines down into the pitcher looking for nectar. When they try to get out, they find stiff hairs pointing down, blocking their escape. Soon they get tired and fall into the acidic liquid in the bottom of the pitcher where they dissolve over time.

    Sundews have sticky fluid on their hairy leaves that insects mistake for nectar. When an insect lands on the leaf it gets stuck in the goo and then the leaf rolls up with the insect inside and dissolves it.

    Venus flytraps have a really cool adaptation for catching insects. At the end of each leaf stalk is a clamshell-shaped leaf that lies open with a red-colored inside to attract insects. An insect landing inside the leaf will trip a hair trigger that snaps the leaf closed. The insect, now trapped inside, gets dissolved by the plant.

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