What Is a Coastal Wetland?

Jackie Myers

Coastal wetlands are one of the most productive ecosystems in the world. They are located in the transition area where the land meets the sea and are marked by soil that is saturated with water either permanently or seasonally. The characteristics associated with a coastal wetland resemble those found at inland and marine areas. An abundance of rich plant and animal life can also be found within a coastal wetland. The different types include estuaries, swamps, lagoons and marshes.

Salmon, which migrate between fresh and salt water, can be found in wetland areas.
Salmon, which migrate between fresh and salt water, can be found in wetland areas.

An important function of a coastal wetland involves acting as a water filter. As more people and businesses establish toward a coastline, the amount of pollution begins to build in that area. The coastal wetland filters all of the water being drained into the ocean. This process is known as biotransformation and plays an important role in keeping estuaries healthy.

During natural disasters, such as hurricanes, a coastal wetland works to reduce the amount of flooding. Communities in proximity to a coastal wetland have increased chances of surviving a flood. For instance, a one-acre wetland can store 1 million gallons (3,785 kl) of water. The trees and other vegetation within the wetland decrease the speed of flood water. Many agencies recommend using wetlands as a natural storm water detention.

A wide variety of plants can be found within a wetland. Certain ones, such as mangroves, have adapted over time to grow in water with high salinity levels. Another plant that has adapted to the wetlands is a salt marsh grass called Spartina. It absorbs the saltwater and secretes the excess amounts through specialized glands. Peat mosses, or bog mosses, can hold up to 15 times as much water as it weighs.

Many types of insects and animals depend on the coastal wetland for food and shelter. Fish that are able to adapt to the fluctuating salinity levels thrive in this environment. A few migratory species, including trout and salmon, can be found in wetland areas around the world. These areas also are ideal for animals during the dry seasons because there are deep water holes from which to drink.

Wetlands around the world are home to several endangered species. Many countries have established regulations to protect the precious wildlife. When wetlands are drained, it has a negative impact on the food chain. The natural barriers found at the opening of rivers are important for species as a whole on Earth. Any pollution that makes its way into the ocean will have a negative impact on other sea life and the people who consume them.

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