A wetland is an area of land on which water covers the soil, or is near the surface of the soil, at all times of the year or at various periods during the year. There are several ways in which to categorise wetlands, for example:
- Marshes or swamps: areas where water is more or less permanently at the surface and causes saturation of the soil (e.g. peatlands)
- Shallow lakes: areas of permanent or semi-permanent water with little flow (e.g. ponds)
- Coasts: areas between land and open sea that are not influenced by rivers (e.g. shorelines and beaches)
- Estuaries: where rivers meet the sea and water changes from fresh to salt as it meets the sea (e.g. tidal mudflats and salt marshes)
- Floodplains: areas next to the permanent course of a river that extends to the edge of the valley (e.g. ox-bow lakes and river-islands).
In the UK wetlands are covered by the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) as a result of the UK Biodiversity Partnership which aims to protect threatened habitats and species and co-ordinate action that should be taken forward at a UK level.
Further information on and links to organisations and projects that focus on wetlands can be found on the Foundation for Water Research website.