Wetlands Glossary

Definitions for terms used within Environmental Perspectives focused on wetlands
B
buffer - a zone of land just outside the wetland or waterway that has the ability to protect a wetland from disturbances occurring in the surrounding upland landscape
brackish - term used to describe areas where freshwater mixes with saltwater to create a moderate salinity level
C
Coastal Plain pond - type of depression wetland in low-lying areas that are isolated, small, seasonally-wet, and circular or elliptical in shape
corridor - connection between habitats, often due to habitat fragmentation from development and agriculture
D
deciduous - types of trees that lose their leaves/needles in the winter
Delmarva Bay - another name for a Coastal Plain pond or depression wetland
depression wetlands - isolated shallow pools of water that occur in low-lying areas. They are seasonally wet and provide critical habitat for amphibians.
E
ecosystem services - benefits from the natural environment that have positive impacts and enhance our quality of life (i.e. water purification, storm protection, etc.)
environmental indicators (stressors) - living and non-living factors that can prevent a wetland from functioning properly such as habitat, hydrology, and buffer
  • habitat - habitat indicators that cause a wetland's grade to decline include: forest harvesting, mowing, farming or grazing of the land, invasive species, and roads through the wetland
  • hydrology - hydrology indicators that cause a wetland's grade to decline include: ditching, stream alterations, dams, stormwater inputs, filling or excavations, and flooding
  • buffer - zone of land just outside the wetland that has the ability to protect a wetland from disturbances occurring in the surrounding upland landscape
erosion - the wearing away of surface soil and rock
estuary/estuarine - describing a body of water where fresh and salt water meet
F
fen - a type of wetland that is at the bottom of a slope and typically features shallow standing water that filters up from groundwater throughout the year
flat/flatwood wetlands - typically located at the upper reaches of the watershed. They are seasonally wet and often appear dry. They absorb precipitation and filter water slowly into surface and groundwater.
floodplain - low, flat land bordering a river or stream that commonly absorbs or holds water overflow in its banks
floodplain wetlands - see riverine/riparian wetlands
freshwater - water containing no, or close to no, salts
G
green infrastructure - reduces and treats water at its source using vegetation, soils, and other elements and practices to restore some of the natural processes required to manage water and create healthier urban environments
groundwater - water that collects or flows beneath the surface that fills the porous spaces in soil, sediment, and rocks
H
herbaceous - plants that are not structured with wood and maintain green stems throughout their life cycle
hydric soil - soil commonly found in wetlands that is saturated, or soaked, with water for some part of the year
hydrology - the study of water and how it moves and is distributed in the environment
hydrophytic plants - plants that have adapted to survive in waterlogged soils
I
impervious/impermeable surface - materials that water cannot penetrate, such as clay, pavement used for roads, parking lots, industrial facilities, etc.
inner-dune depression meadow - a type of depression wetland that is restricted to the back or inner dunes of saltwater ecosystems
invasive species - species which cause harm to natural environments by spreading rapidly and taking over areas, often displacing native plants and wildlife. Most invasive species are non-native, but they can also be aggressive native species.
M
marsh - a type of wetland that is typically treeless and dominated by grasses and other shrubby plants
marsh migration - the natural process by which an area of land is allowed to convert to a marsh as sea levels rise
mill pond - a man-made reservoir created to power a water mill
N
non-tidal wetland - freshwater wetlands that do not have tidal influxes of water
nursery habitat - habitat utilized by juveniles of a given animal species
P
peat-land fen - a type of wetland that develops on top of organic peat that is very acidic and nutrient-poor, usually at the bottom of moderate slopes where groundwater is forced up by impermeable clay soils
pond - an inland body of standing water formed from small depressions
R
riverine/riparian wetlands - occur along streams or rivers and provide storage for floodwaters and groundwater. The water that moves into these wetlands is cleaned before it moves downstream. They form corridors of valuable wildlife habitat.
S
salinity - measurement of salt content in the water; freshwater has no salinity, brackish water has moderate salinity, the ocean has high salinity
saltwater - water that contains a comparatively high concentration of salt
saltwater intrusion - the movement of saltwater into freshwater sources, which can lead to contamination of drinking water, loss of areas of food production, dieback of native vegetation, etc.
sea level rise - increase in sea level due to a warming climate, which results in melting ice entering the ocean as well as thermal expansion of water molecules. Rising sea level can lead to increased height in storm waves, increased vulnerability to storm damage, flooding of low-lying areas, increased erosion, loss of tidal wetlands, loss of habitat, loss of agricultural lands, saltwater intrusion, and interference with septic systems, irrigation, and drinking water.
storm surge - rise in sea level associated with intense storms and winds that push water into shore and result in flooding
swamp - wetlands with very wet and organic soils that can be characterized by the presence of tree growth
T
tidal cycle - movement of water landward (high tide) and successive movement of water seaward (low tide) caused by the gravitational pull of the moon
tidal wetlands - regularly flooded by the tide and are some of the most productive ecosystems on earth, supplying habitat for important fisheries. They provide coastal populations with critical services by reducing flooding and storm damage.
W
water table - the level below the surface of the earth where groundwater can be found
watershed - the region or area drained by a river, stream, or other water body
wetland - an area that is characteristically wet during the growing season with water at or near the surface, hydric soils, and plants adapted for wet conditions

Page reviewed 1/7/19