Dynamics of Wetlands

Wetlands are dynamic and productive ecosystems. They can produce more plant and animal life than woodlands or prairies of the same size.

They often undergo a variety of changes, both seasonally and from year-to-year. Wetlands can go dry and then flood, be burned by prairie fires and be subjected to other disturbances such as grazing. These natural processes don't harm the wetland. In fact, it is the interaction of all of these processes that make wetlands so productive.

If some of these processes are altered, for example, by maintaining constant water levels, a wetland can begin to deteriorate.

Other factors that can cause wetland deterioration are influenced by people, such as permanent drainage, filling with soil, concrete or trash, diverting water or erosion.

Temporary and seasonally flooded wetlands do not contain water all year round. They go through a wet/dry cycle essential to their continued productivity and functioning. These wetlands provide valuable wildlife habitat, water storage and other functions.

During dry times, some wetland plants are able to start growing. Many of these plants produce seeds, or tubers, that are eaten by water birds and other wildlife.

When water returns, older plants that have died decompose quickly, releasing nutrients into the system. These nutrients feed algae, which in turn feed insects and other invertebrates.

Invertebrates found in these wetlands are specially adapted to the wet/dry cycle. They reproduce quickly and profusely once water returns. Wetland wildlife are well adapted to these changes.


Information from Guide to Nebraska's Wetlands and their Conservation Needs, by Ted LaGrange, Wetland Program Manager, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

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