Why Wetlands are Special
Wetlands are low areas where water either covers the soil or is present at or near the soil surface for much of the year, including the growing season. So it’s not surprising that a walk across a wet land usually results in wet feet – unless of course it’s winter and the wetland is frozen.
The Beaver Boardwalk provides a dry path to explore the fascinating ecosystem of a wetland. Because wetlands occur in the space between dry land and open water, plants adapted to saturated-soil conditions are usually a good way to tell where wetland boundaries are.
The change from plants that prefer dry soil to those that prefer wet soil is often quite distinct. The transition from a shallow water wetland and a deeper open water body is also indicated by plants, but in this case the wetland plants are usually rooted in the soil and either float on or grow above the water surface. In this area wetland plants can grow in water up to about two meters deep.
Bogs, fens, swamps, marshes, and shallow waters are the five wetland classes recognized in Canada. Many wetlands, including this one, are actually a complex mix of different classes, forms, and types. The Beaver Boardwalk traverses a sedge/willow fen at the outlet of Maxwell Lake.
Dense layer of peat; acidic; low nutrient content; water table at or near the surface; usually covered with mosses, shrubs and sedges; trees possibly present.
Covered with peat; water
table at or near the surface; higher nutrient content than bogs; vegetation usually characterized by sedges and grasses; trees and shrubs may or may not be present.
Wetland on mineral soils. Stagnant or slow-flowing pool; high nutrient content; usually covered with
trees or shrubs.
Wetland on mineral soils. Includes basins, pools and ponds, as well as wetlands found beside rivers, coastlines and shorelines; submerged vegetation; floating leaved plants.
Wetland on mineral soils. Periodically or permanently flooded; absence of trees; emergent vegetation; usually high nutrient content.
Why are wetlands important?
They are homes for many species such as beavers and wetland plants that live nowhere else. Other species that live in terrestrial or aquatic habitats also use wetlands for important parts of their life cycles. Wetlands store water and remove sediments and toxic substances, earning them the title of “earth’s kidneys”. Many useful products come from wetlands. These include food (cranberries, waterfowl), energy (peat, wood, charcoal), and building materials (wood). Wetlands are amazing places to explore. Education and recreation, or just plain nature appreciation – you can find them all in a wetland.