Wetland Communities


Wetland communities are assemblages of individuals of different species (plants, animals, microorganisms) living and interacting together in habitats that have water at or near the surface of the ground, or where the land is flooded by shallow water, for much of the year. These organisms are adapted to life in saturated soil conditions, which can include intermittent flooding, anoxia and potentially harsh water and soil chemistries. Wetland communities may be broadly grouped into coastal, including salt marshes, tidal freshwater marshes and forested mangrove swamps; and inland, including freshwater marshes, freshwater swamps, riparian wetlands (along streams and rivers) and peatlands (including bogs and fens). Hydrological conditions such as the source, depth, flow rate and timing of water presence are the fundamental determinants of the composition and structure of wetland communities.

Key Concepts

  • Definition and classification of wetland communities.

  • How wetland and upland communities differ in species richness and composition.

  • Successional development of wetland communities.

  • Abiotic and biotic factors affecting wetland community composition.

  • How competition and facilitation affect wetland plant community composition.

  • Effects of herbivory and predation on wetland communities.

  • Threats to wetland communities and wetland losses.

Keywords: bogs; fens; marshes; peatlands; swamps

Figure 1.

(a) Coastal salt marsh in Georgia, USA. (b) Fen peatland in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, USA. (c) Rafferty Swamp, central Victoria, Australia, during its dry phase. Photograph was taken in October 2002. (d) Rafferty swamp during its wet phase. Photograph was taken in November, 1992. Photo credits: (a) Rebecca R. Sharitz, (b) Karen E. Francl, (c) and (d) Paul I. Boon, from Batzer DP and Sharitz RR (2006) Ecology of Freshwater and Estuarine Wetlands. California: University of California Press. Reproduced by permission of University of California Press.

Figure 2.

The relative contribution of three water sources (precipitation, groundwater discharge, and surface inflow) to wetlands. As there may be much variation in the relative importance of different water sources within many of the wetland types, their locations are approximate and often overlap. Modified from Brinson MM (1993) Changes in the functioning of wetlands along environmental gradients. Wetlands13: 65–74, with permission of the Society of Wetland Scientists.

Figure 3.

Human activities and natural events that cause loss and degradation of wetland communities. Reproduced from Dugan P (ed.) (1993) Wetlands in Danger. A World Conservation Atlas. New York: Oxford University Press, with permission.


Further Reading

Batzer DB and Sharitz RR (eds) (2006) Ecology of Freshwater and Estuarine Wetlands. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Dugan P (ed.) (1993) Wetlands in Danger. A World Conservation Atlas. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Finlayson M and Moser M (1991) Wetlands. Oxford, UK: IWRB Facts On File, Inc.

Keddy PA (2000) Wetland Ecology: Principles and Conservation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Mitsch WJ and Gosselink JG (2007) Wetlands. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Tiner RW (1998) In Search of Swampland: A Wetland Sourcebook for the Northeast. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

van der Valk AG (2006) The Biology of Freshwater Wetlands. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

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How to Cite close
Sharitz, Rebecca R, and Batzer, Darold P(Sep 2009) Wetland Communities. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0020461]