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What is the Wash?
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What Are Wetlands?

Teachers can use this page as a lesson.
Let your students read the page and then assign them the quiz,
the button is at the bottom of the page.

A sprinkle of water and a dash of mud stirred together with cattails and bulrush stock. These are a few of the ingredients for a wetlands. Whether the wetland is a bog, swamp or a cattail marsh: wetlands are teeming with life, supporting more than half of all species during their daily, seasonal or life cycles.

Just what are wetlands?

Well, wetlands are places that are not all water and not all land. The soil in a wetland is different because it is low in oxygen, often smells and tends to be wobbly or squishy when you walk on it. Marshes, lagoons, even muddy ponds are wetlands. Wetlands are defined as seasonally wet ecosystems that are present on every continent and therefore will flourish almost anywhere there is a steady supply of water.

There are many types of wetlands and they are found in every biome. Some wetlands use freshwater while others use saltwater. There are large wetlands and small wetlands, wetlands along the coast and wetlands further inland. There are wetlands where there is a lot of rain and even where there isn't (like a desert). Wetlands are one of the richest habitats on earth in terms of biodiversity and productivity. Because wetlands vary in size, location and characteristics, it is important that wetlands species are able to withstand their changing environment.

Just how do wetlands work?

The slow flowing water in a wetland system allows sediments to settle as water moves through the system. This allows for a diverse community of microorganisms that break down inorganic and organic pollutants. In other words, wetland vegetation (or plants) like cattails and bulrush, work as "filters" and pick up contaminants that may be in the water and then the microorganisms break these contaminants down. We call this process "polishing the water". That's just a fancy way of saying the wetlands can help clean the water.

Water quality is important and it's important that people understand how to do their part in keeping water clean. When people overwater their lawns, wash their cars, dump oil, grease or paint into the gutter they are contributing to urban runoff . As that water travels it may pick up oil from a leaky car, pesticides used on landscapes and soap from washing a car.

Whether the wetlands are constructed or natural systems, both systems play an important role in the restoration and enhancement of the Las Vegas Wash ecology.

Now that you've read all about wetlands, try to take our Wetlands Quiz!

Las Vegas Wash Project Coordination Team • 100 City Parkway, Suite 700 • Las Vegas, NV 89106 • (702) 822-3300