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Welcome to the Wetland Communities section of the Virtual Walk in the Forest Tour! Here we will explore how wetlands are a diverse type of ecosystem with many different communities. Search each example community to see what components of the ecosystem are clues that we are in a wetland environment. This community is a marsh wetland.

What does the field journal tell you about this environment? If we refer to the field journal, you will notice that the water table is very high and is above ground level, which forms the open water feature we see at this stop. The amount of water in this system means the nutrient level can change depending on the season, with spring rain and snow melt bringing in more nutrients than in the fall. Because the water table is so high, we don’t have any living trees in the marsh, and only aquatic or semi-aquatic plants are able to live in the wet environment. This helps us recognize the marsh as a wetland system.

The kind of plant species found here must be adapted for very wet conditions. Some are entirely aquatic, meaning they are suspended in water instead of soil. Species shown: (1 & 2) Common Cattail (or *Typha latifolia*), (3) Water Arum (or *Calla palustris*). Do you know any other boreal plants that are aquatic?

What organisms are common across all wetlands and what organisms would you only find in a marsh? Birds like the species pictured above would be attracted to marsh environments to find food and shelter. (1) shows some Trumpeter swans (*Cygnus buccinator*), (2) shows a Blue heron (*Ardea Herodias*) and (3) shows a Common loon (*Gavia immer*). Photo credits: Amanda Hayden

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Marsh wetland – with Dr. Bin Xu There are many different definitions of wetland, but in essence, a wetland is a distinct ecosystem in which the soil is either permanently or seasonally flooded, and the vegetation that develops is well adapted to the low oxygen soil condition. Here, we see a typical marsh wetland of Northern Alberta compared to the upland forest in the background, you can see there's a lack of trees in the wetland. Instead, the wetland has a very high cover of herbaceous species, which are plants that don't have woody tissues like those in trees and shrubs. One common plant you can see here is the common cattail. Another one is a grass called bluejoint. If you look down, you will see open water and the floating mat of a broadleaf plant called water-arum. All of these wetland plants have adaptations within their bodies to deal with the presence of water and the lack of oxygen within their living environment. If you pick up one of these water-arum plants, you will find the fleshy stems are hollow and have lots of airspace to help them float and breathe. Although wetlands can be tricky to access and enjoy, they play important roles in the regulation of water flow on the land and provide habitat to unique plants and animals. In Canada, many of our wetlands store a large amount of soil carbon in the form of peat and play an important role in the balance of the global climate.

Bog Wetland

    Please rotate the device into landscape mode and insert into your VR headset.