Click on each section to find out about species found in Wetlands
Wetlands are common in the rolling landscape of British Columbia’s grasslands and are critical to the survival of many species, and especially waterfowl.108 species of birds, 41 species of mammals, 9 species of amphibians and 4 species of reptiles depend on the wetlands of the interior of BC for their survival. Many birds, such as waterfowl and shorebirds, make use of these diverse areas during migration both to and from their wintering and breeding areas.
Wetlands are very dynamic ecosystems where water levels change from season to season and year to year. They act as giant sponges to help regulate water flow by capturing and holding it, then slowly releasing it into the ecosystem. Water is present in wetlands at least during the growing season, but shallower wetlands may dry out by late summer, particularly in dry years. The hydric soils of wetlands have developed under saturated and anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions.
Wetlands occur either by themselves or as part of a larger pond or lake. Some wetlands also have a riparian area associated with them in the adjacent upland areas, where plants, such as willows, sedges and rushes, that can tolerate occasional flooding thrive. In other places there may be an aspen stand beside a wetland where seepage water provides the ideal conditions for aspen growth.
Plants associated with wetlands are hydrophytic, which means they are adapted to surviving in wet or saturated soils. Submerged plants grow on or under the water and may have roots in the soil, like sago pondweed, or they may be free-floating, like coontail.
Emergent plants such as cattails, bulrushes and some sedges have their roots in the soil under water and most of their growing parts above water. Other water-loving plants such as willows, grow above the level of the water but like having their roots in saturated soil.
Teaming in the warm wetland water are millions of insects, including bugs, beetles, freshwater shrimps, caddis flies, and mosquito larvae; flying over the water are numerous other insects including dragonflies, mayflies, midges and mosquitoes. They provide food for the many larger creatures that visit or live in or near wetlands.
Water birds, shorebirds, perching birds, birds of prey, woodpeckers, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and invertebrates all depend on wetlands. They are attracted by the variety of habitats found there, by the abundance of food in the water, and by the protection they give from grasslands predators.
Many birds use wetlands as feeding and resting areas during their long migrations; others rely on wetlands for breeding and nesting. Small mammals, such as muskrats, rely on the vegetation in and around wetlands; even smaller mammals, such as bats, feed on the abundant insects that fly over wetlands.
Long-toed Salamanders and other amphibians breed and rear their young in wetlands before venturing into the drier uplands in search of food and protective cover. The Painted Turtle, the most amphibious reptile in BC, spends much of its time basking in the sun on logs or rocks close to shore.
Want to find out more about how water cycles through an ecosystem?
Go to Grasslands Ecosystems, and click on Ecosystem Processes.
Click here for Communities and Habitats
Other communities in cross section
Rocky Talus Slopes/Rock Outcrop
Open Coniferous Forest
Closed Coniferous Patch
Mike Duffy (Wetland)