Salt Creek Watershed Project
There are many definitions of wetlands, and many kinds. In the most general of terms, a wetland is a natural community where water is at or covering the surface of the ground for all or part of the year. The key in this definition is the term natural community, which helps to exclude temporary standing floodwaters from being designated as wetlands.
Other definitions are more specific and technical and-- because the definition establishes what property is or is not subject to regulations by federal, state, or local environmental agencies--often controversial.
For instance, defining a wetland as land that contains "standing water" for at least 15 consecutive days out of any year, may bring a smaller area of land under regulation than one which merely says the soil must be wet for seven days. And definitions that set requirements for "consecutive" days of inundation also exclude many kinds of wetlands which are created by frequent but short-term flooding.
Here are two other definitions of wetlands:
- Those areas that are inundated or saturated by ground or surface water at a frequency or duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adopted for life in saturated soil conditions.
- Wetlands are lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water. For purposes of this classification, wetlands must have one or more of the following three attributes; (1) at least periodically, the land supports predominately hydrophytes; (2) the substrate is predominately undrained hydric soil; and (3) the substrate is non-soil and is saturated with water or covered by shallow water at some time during the growing season of each year.
Wetlands are being lost at an alarming rate. The following picture shows the percentage of lost wetlands in each state of the United States;
The following graph shows the major sources of recent wetlands losses.
The following graph identifies the major causes of degrading wetlands integrity.