Haw River State Park: What are Wetlands?
What makes a wetland a wetland? Well, being wet is only part of the whole picture: Well, “wetness” is a big part of it. There are lots of different types of wetlands out there, from saltmarshes to cypress swamps, but all wetlands typically have three things in common: water saturated soils, plants adapted to grow in really wet conditions, and the dynamic presence of water. The ground might only covered by water part of the year, and other times it might just be water-logged soils.
The wetlands at Haw River State Park are called “riverine wetlands” because they’re found along the floodplain of the Haw River. The water which moves through this wetland is all freshwater which comes from precipitation and underground springs, instead of salty or brackish water like you’d find in coastal marshes.
Wetlands are especially important for animals with young aquatic life stages like as fish, amphibians, and insects. Dragonflies lay they eggs in wetland waters and spend most of the lives as underwater larva or nymph with no wings at all. In the open water, these young animals would make easy prey for larger predators, but here in the overgrown & shallow wetlands, there are places for them to hide and feed until they’ve grown larger.
Wetland ecosystems are special because of their ability to hold onto water. They often act like a sponge after heavy rain events, which reduces flooding and erosion downstream.
Haw River State Park video and student resources are correlated with the following North Carolina Standards:
(4.L.1) Understand the effects of environmental changes, adaptations and behaviors that enable animals (including humans) to survive in changing habitats
Give examples of changes in an organism’s environment that are beneficial to it and some that are harmful.
Explain how animals meet their needs by using behaviors in response to information received from the environment.
Explain how humans can adapt their behavior to live in changing habitats (e.g., recycling wastes, establishing rain gardens, planting trees and shrubs to prevent flooding and erosion).
Explain how differences among animals of the same population sometimes give individuals an advantage in surviving and reproducing in changing habitats.
(5.L.2) Understand the interdependence of plants and animals with their ecosystem.
Compare the characteristics of several common ecosystems, including estuaries and salt marshes, oceans, lakes and ponds, forests, and grasslands.
Classify the organisms within an ecosystem according to the function they serve: producers, consumers, or decomposers (biotic factors).
Infer the effects that may result from the interconnected relationship of plants and animals to their ecosystem.
(6.L.2) Understand the flow of energy through ecosystems and the responses of populations to the biotic and abiotic factors in their environment.
Summarize how the abiotic factors (such as temperature, water, sunlight, and soil quality) of biomes (freshwater, marine, forest, grasslands, desert, Tundra) affect the ability of organisms to grow, survive and/or create their own food through photosynthesis.
(8.E.1) Explain the structure of the hydrosphere including:
• Water distribution on earth
• Local river basins and water availability
(8.E.1.2) Summarize evidence that Earth’s oceans are a reservoir of nutrients, minerals, dissolved gases, and life forms:
• Marine ecosystems
• Behavior of gases in the marine environment
• Value and sustainability of marine resources
• Deep ocean technology and understandings gained
(8.E.1.3) Predict the safety and potability of water supplies in North Carolina based on physical and biological factors, including:
• Dissolved oxygen
• Nitrates and phosphates
(8.E.1.4) Conclude that the good health of humans requires:
• Monitoring of the hydrosphere
• Water quality standards
• Methods of water treatment
• Maintaining safe water quality
Explain how the flow of energy within food webs is interconnected with the cycling of matter (including water, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and oxygen).