Fun Facts: Wonderful Wetlands

 Photo by Shawn Eckert

Photo by Shawn Eckert

Wetlands are abundant in Alberta and are important to both people and wildlife.  They provide habitat for many birds, plants and animals, providing us with nature observing opportunities. Wetlands also filter water by removing pollutants and sediments, store water in times of rainfall, and release water in times of drought. Some wetlands also store huge amounts of carbon, which is important in helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Did you know that there are many types of wetlands? Wetlands can be split up into Peatlands and Mineral wetlands. Peatlands are classified as wetlands that accumulate peat (partially decomposed organic vegetation). Mineral wetlands do not accumulate peat.

Peatlands

  Sphagnum Moss – typical of a peatland  ,  CC BY-SA 3.0

Sphagnum Moss – typical of a peatland CC BY-SA 3.0

  Sphagnum Bog,  Photo by P199 -  Own work, CC BY 2.5

Sphagnum Bog, Photo by P199 - Own work, CC BY 2.5

Bog

Bogs are poorly drained, acidic, peat accumulating wetlands. They are typically found in the northern part of the province in the Boreal region. The surface of a bog is typically elevated over the water table and is isolated from surface water and groundwater influences. Thus, bogs rely on moisture from precipitation and because of this, the area is nutrient poor. Sphagnum mosses and shrubs dominate these areas but they may support trees such as black spruce or tamarack.

Fen

Fens are peat accumulating and typically found in the northern part of the province in the Boreal region as well. They are groundwater fed and will sometimes become “patterned” due to the flow of water through the area. The water flow also supplies nutrients, and thus fens are more productive than bogs. Fens are typically dominated by sedges but also contain shrubs and trees. These regions are typically have a basic pH. 

Mineral Wetlands

Swamps

Swamps can sometimes be difficult to identify because they are typically mineral wetlands but can sometimes accumulate peat and therefore be classified as a peatland. They are flooded seasonally or for long periods of time. Swamps are nutrient rich and productive and are usually surrounded by trees such as black spruce, willow or tamarack.

 Photo by Shawn Eckert

Photo by Shawn Eckert

Shallow Open Water

This type of wetland is also known as a pond and typically has little or no obvious water flow. They are less than 2 metres deep and usually contain plants like duckweed. These are very important habitat for ducks and are found more in the settled and southern region of the province.

Marshes

Marshes are periodically or permanently covered by standing or slowly moving water. They are rich in nutrients and contain emergent reeds, rushes, cattails and sedges.  Marshes are found in a range of areas, but are most common in the Grassland and Parkland areas of Alberta.

References: Wetlands Alberta