Connecticut’s Freshwater Wetlands
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Water can enter or leave a wetland through precipitation, surface water flow, ground water flow, flooding of rivers and streams, and tidal action. The main way by which nutrients enter or leave wetlands is through these inputs and outputs of water. Wetland plants and animals are highly adapted to their environments, and any alterations of the natural hydrology of these environments result in substantial changes in primary productivity of the ecosystem as well as the richness and diversity of wetland biota. Hydrologists use a variety of measuring methods in seeking to determine the hydroperiod of a wetland—the yearly pattern of water level in that wetland. Different wetlands have different hydroperiods (see below), the hydroperiod being determined by the capacity for storage of water, the geology, soils and topography of the landscape, and the surface and ground water conditions. Highly productive wetlands are those which have a pulsing hydroperiod, with alternating wet and dry periods and consequent alternating aerobic and anaerobic soil conditions. Loss of water from a wetland also occurs through evapotranspiration, the combination of evaporation of water from soil and plant surfaces and transpiration through vascular plant tissues such as leaves. Understanding the hydroperiod of a wetland can do much toward understanding the structure and functioning of the wetland.