[Riparian Management Area Guidebook Table of Contents]

Appendix 1.

Wetland classes

The national wetland classification recognizes five major classes of wetlands. [1]

Shallow open water wetlands are intermittently or permanently flooded areas with open expanses of standing or moving water up to 2 m deep. Open water, with no emergent vegetation, covers 75 per cent or more of the wetland surface. These wetlands are commonly termed ponds or pools.

Marsh wetlands have mineral or sometimes well-decomposed peat soils. When peat soils are present they are often enriched with mineral materials. Waters are nutrient rich with near-neutral to basic pH. Surface water levels typically fluctuate seasonally, with declining levels exposing matted vegetation or mudflats. Emergent vegetation includes grasses, cattails, sedges, rushes, and reeds which cover more than 25 per cent of the wetland surface.

Swamp wetlands have mineral or occasionally peat soils with a water table at or near the surface. There is pronounced internal water movement from adjacent mineral areas, making the waters nutrient-rich. If peat is present, it is mainly well-decomposed wood and occasionally sedges. The vegetation is typically dominated by coniferous or deciduous trees or dense shrubs and herbaceous species.

Fen wetlands have organic soils and a water table at or above the surface. Soils are primarily moderately to well-decomposed sedge and non-sphagnum moss peats. Waters are mainly nutrient rich with a near neutral to slightly acid pH. The vegetation consists primarily of sedges, grasses, reeds, mosses, and some shrubs. Scattered trees may be present.

Bog wetlands have organic soils with a water table at or near the surface. Soils are predominantly poorly to moderately decomposed sphagnum moss peats. The bog surface is usually unaffected by groundwaters and thus waters are generally acid and low in nutrients. Bogs are usually carpeted by sphagnum mosses and ericaceous shrubs. They may be treed or treeless. Bogs with an open growth of scrubby trees are commonly referred to as muskeg.


[1] Tarnocai, C. and others. 1988. The Canadian wetland classification system. In National Wetlands Working Group. Wetlands of Canada. Ecological Land Classification Series No. 24. Sustainable Development Branch, Environment Canada, Ottawa. pp. 413427.

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