Friday, September 7, 2012

Biodiversity in Wetlands

     From a biological perspective, wetlands offer a habitat to many species of organisms. These are areas that can support seasonal inhabitants as well as year-round because of the high amounts of biomass and nutrients.

     The aquatic environment is a unique one because it is home to a wide variety of shallow water species. These organisms must be able to thrive in an oxygen-poor environment because of the lack of moving water in ecosystems like a wetland. The often temporary pools offer breeding grounds for various amphibian species who prefer the relative protection from predators that tall wetland grass offers.

     The terrestrial species that inhabit these environments are unique because they must be well adapted to navigating tall grasses and climbing vertically to avoid flooding. Rodent species nests often rest above the surface to avoid exposure to the damp environment below. The eating habits of these organisms often dictate the dispersal of seeds around a wetland.

     These environments are very suitable for native species and not surprisingly offer the same suitability to invasive species as well. One species in particular has made an appearance all across the United States and is moving globally as well: the American Bullfrog. In 2003, Rolando Mazzoni and his research team came out with a study that explored the impact of a bullfrog invasion (1). Bullfrogs are a carrier of an infectious disease that effects other amphibians called the Chytrid fungus. Bullfrogs are able to use the rich environment that the wetlands offer, and breed rapidly.

     Another invasive species that is spreading rapidly is the Asian Exotic Honeysuckle. In 2007, Todd Hutchinson and John Vankat released a study on the invasive nature of Honeysuckle here in Ohio (2). Since it is the first to leaf out in the early spring, it is able to out compete the other native species for sunlight. Because of this trait, it is able to grow rapidly at the beginning of spring and leach the soil of surrounding nutrients. While growing rapidly, it is choking the surrounding plant life of precious nutrients. The picture below shows the current distribution of the Honeysuckle plant:

     Wetlands provide a rich environment for a wide variety of species, but also prove to be good stopping grounds for prevalent invasive species. Tracking the presence of invasive species would be an interesting topic for us at our study site at Ohio State.

- Evan

1. Mazzoni, R., Cunningham, A. A., Daszak, P., Apolo, A., Perdomo, E. and Speranza, G. 2007. Emerging Pathogen of Wild Amphibians in Frogs (Rana catesbeiana) Farmed for International Trade. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 9, 995-998.

2. Hutchinson, T. F. and Vankat, J. L. 1997. Invasibility and Effects of Amur Honeysuckle in Southwestern Ohio Forests. Conservation Biology. 11, 1117-1124.


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