What is a Wetland?

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What is a Wetland?

Wetlands are not always wet and seasonal or temporary wetlands, such as vernal pools, serve as important breeding areas for certain amphibians. All wetlands, however, are defined by three characteristics:

  • The presence of plants that are known to grow in saturated conditions.
  • Soils that lack oxygen (many appear ashen or mottled and have rust stains).
  • Water at or near the surface during some part of the growing season.

The Importance of Wetlands

Wetlands, including swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas, provide numerous ecological and social functions. Wetlands serve as crucial nurseries and homes to both saltwater and freshwater fish, wildlife, and plants. In addition, wetlands are responsible for reducing flood risks by holding and dissipating heavy rains and snow melt, recharging groundwater and water supplies, filtering to clean water, and recycling nutrients. Finally, wetlands also provide a variety of recreational and wildlife viewing opportunities.

Wetlands, Frogs, and Toads

There are many types of wetland habitats, and while most frogs and toads need water to lay eggs, each species has habitat preferences. For example, the Fowler’s toad (Bufo fowleri), found in the eastern United States, prefers to breed in shallow water like that found in small ponds, lake margins, and ditches. Spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer), also found in the Eastern U.S., prefer wooded ponds or swamps and can breed at both permanent and temporary wetlands.

The terrestrial habitat surrounding a wetland can also be important for frogs and toads breeding. California treefrogs (Pseudacris cadaverina) can be found near shady pools of canyon streams and washes in Southern California. Some species, such as the cliff chirping frogs (Eleutherodactylus marnockii) of central Texas, have adapted to breed away from bodies of water. Cliff chirping frogs lay eggs in moist rocky crevices which then hatch directly into tiny froglets, skipping the aquatic stage altogether!