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Formation Detail Report: F013
Temperate to Polar Freshwater Marsh, Wet Meadow & Shrubland Formation

The U.S. National
Vegetation Classification
Temperate to Polar Freshwater Marsh, Wet Meadow & Shrubland includes wet riparian and swamp shrublands, wet meadows, wet prairies, and shallow and deep emergent marshes. The vegetation comprises seasonal green emergent, hydrophytic shrubs and herbs with at least 10% cover, on mucky, inundated or saturated soils across the mid-latitudes of the Northern and Southern hemispheres from 23° to 70°.
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Translated Name:Temperate to Polar Freshwater Marsh, Wet Meadow & Shrubland Formation
Colloquial Name:Temperate to Polar Freshwater Marsh, Wet Meadow & Shrubland
Temperate to Polar Freshwater Marsh, Wet Meadow & Shrubland includes wet riparian and swamp shrublands, wet meadows, wet prairies, and shallow and deep emergent marshes on mucky, inundated or saturated soils across the mid-latitudes of the Northern and Southern hemispheres from 23° to 70°. These wetlands have shallow water, with levels that usually fluctuate daily, seasonally or annually due to tides (freshwater tidal), flooding, evapotranspiration, groundwater recharge, or seepage losses. The vegetation comprises seasonal green emergent hydrophytic woody and herbaceous macrophytes with at least 10% cover, including graminoids such as rushes, reeds, grasses and sedges, other herbaceous species such as broad-leaved emergent forbs, and short to tall shrubs (primarily broad-leaved deciduous but some broad-leaved evergreen in warm-temperate regions). Associated with these plants are floating-leaved and submergent species, and nonvascular plants such as brown mosses, liverworts, and macroscopic algae. The vegetation is usually arranged in distinct zones of parallel or concentric patterns in response to gradients of water depth, frequency of drawdown, water chemistry or disturbance. Saline or brackish non-tidal marshes are excluded. Seasonal drawdowns may expose mudflats that are vegetated by pioneering herb and grass species. Plant communities of seasonal marshes are dynamic, shifting spatially with water levels and changing in composition over a short time. Communities of semipermanent marshes usually are more stable, represented by stands of reeds, which may persist for many years in the absence of severe drought.
The vegetation comprises seasonal green emergent hydrophytic macrophytes, chiefly graminoids such as rushes, reeds, grasses and sedges, other herbaceous species such as broad-leaved emergent forbs, and short to tall, primarily broad-leaved deciduous shrubs (some broad-leaved evergreen shrubs in warm-temperate climates), across the mid-latitudes of the Northern and Southern hemispheres from 23° to 70°.
Inland salt marshes are currently excluded here and placed with salt marsh. Freshwater tidal marshes are placed here. Further review is needed of the similarities and differences between temperate and tropical freshwater marshes. Subarctic and arctic (polar) marshes belong in this formation.
Synonomy: < Freshwater Marshes (Mitsch and Gosselink 2000) [Both tropical and temperate marshes are treated together.]
< Nontidal Freshwater Marshes (Roth 2009) [It is not clear whether nontidal salt marshes are included here. Both tropical and temperate marshes are treated together.]
< Tidal Freshwater Marshes (Roth 2009) [Both tropical and temperate marshes are treated together.]
< Tidal Freshwater Marshes (Mitsch and Gosselink 2000) [Both tropical and temperate marshes are treated together.]

Related Type Name:

Short Citation:
  • Brady and Weil 2002
  • Faber-Langendoen et al. 2015c
  • Mitsch and Gosselink 2000
  • National Wetlands Working Group 1997
  • Roth 2009
States/Provinces:
Nations:CA, MX, US
Range:This formation is found on mucky, inundated or saturated soils across the mid-latitudes of the Northern and Southern hemispheres from 23° to 70°.
US Forest Service Ecoregions
Domain Name:
Division Name:
Province Name:
Province Code:   Occurrence Status:
Section Name:
Section Code:     Occurrence Status:
Temperate to Polar Freshwater Marsh, Wet Meadow & Shrubland vegetation predominantly comprises summer green emergent hydrophytic macrophytes, with at least 10% cover, including graminoids such as rushes, reeds, grasses and sedges, other herbaceous species such as broad-leaved emergent forbs, and short to tall shrubs (primarily broad-leaved deciduous, but some broad-leaved evergreen in warm-temperate regions). Associated with these plants are floating-leaved and submergent species, and nonvascular plants such as brown mosses, liverworts, and macroscopic algae. Vegetation is usually arranged in distinct zones of parallel or concentric patterns in response to gradients of water depth, frequency of drawdown, water chemistry or disturbance (National Wetlands Working Group 1997).
A temperate freshwater marsh is a wetland that has shallow water and levels that usually fluctuate daily, seasonally or annually due to tides (freshwater tidal), flooding, evapotranspiration, groundwater recharge, or seepage losses. Marshes may experience water level drawdowns that will result in portions drying up and exposing the sediments. Marshes receive their water from the surrounding catchment as surface runoff, stream inflow, precipitation, storm surges, groundwater discharge, longshore currents and tidal action. Marshes dependent on surface runoff usually retain less permanent water than sites supplied by groundwater. The water table usually remains at or below the soil surface, but soil water remains within the rooting zone for most of the growing season, except in years of extreme drought. In semi-arid regions, some basin marshes may remain dry for several consecutive years, and consequently may assume some characteristics of terrestrial ecosystems until water levels are restored by above-average precipitation and runoff (National Wetlands Working Group 1997).

A marsh is a minerotrophic and usually eutrophic wetland. Nutrients are derived from the substrate through periodic aeration. High nutrient levels give rise to the characteristic high productivity of vascular plants and high decomposition rates of the plant material at the end of the growing season. Such high rates of decomposition give rise to marshes producing significant quantities of gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. Freshwater marshes are usually circumneutral to highly alkaline owing to the presence of dissolved minerals such as calcium, potassium carbonate, or potassium bicarbonate.

Soils and substrates encountered in marsh wetlands typically range from mineral soils such as Humic and Rego Gleysols to organic soils such as Humisols and Mesisols in the Canadian soil classification system [see Brady and Weil (2002) for comparison of Canadian soil orders with U.S. and FAO systems]. Normally, marsh sediment is a mixture of unconsolidated organic and inorganic material. Clumps, hummocks, or tussocks of live and dead herbaceous vegetation may exist in standing water. Those marshes that are seasonally dry or exposed to high energy currents usually accumulate little organic matter, in contrast to hydrologically more stable and permanently saturated marshes. In the latter case, such as in lakeshore or delta marshes, Humisols develop; this organic material can accumulate but seldom is more than 40 to 50 cm deep. Under persistent conditions of stable water, sedges and aquatic mosses create floating mats of vegetation. This is characteristic of marsh stages transitional to rich fens (National Wetlands Working Group 1997).

Marshes occur in many geomorphological settings which include low-lying areas adjacent to rivers, lakes, the sea, and any other position on the land surface where groundwater may discharge. In northern regions, marshes are common in nutrient-rich sites associated with rivers either in the floodplains or at their mouth on alluvial fans and deltas (National Wetlands Working Group 1997).
High
Plant communities of seasonal marshes are dynamic. They shift spatially with water levels, and change in composition over a short time, whereas communities of semipermanent marshes usually are more stable, represented by stands of reeds which may persist for many years in the absence of severe drought (National Wetlands Working Group 1997).
Authors:
D. Faber-Langendoen, after National Wetlands Working Group (1997)      Version Date: 17Oct2014


References:
  • Brady, N. C., and R. R. Weil. 2002. The nature and properties of soils. Thirteenth edition. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  • Faber-Langendoen, D., T. Keeler-Wolf, D. Meidinger, C. Josse, A. Weakley, D. Tart, G. Navarro, B. Hoagland, S. Ponomarenko, J.-P. Saucier, G. Fults, and E. Helmer. 2015c. Classification and description of world formation types. General Technical Report RMRS-GTR-000. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, CO.
  • Mitsch, W. J., and J. G. Gosselink. 2000. Wetlands. Third edition. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York. 920 pp.
  • National Wetlands Working Group. 1997. Wetlands of Canada. C. D. A. Rubec, editor. Ecological Land Classification Series No. 24. Environment Canada, Ottawa, and Polyscience Publications, Inc., Montreal. 452 pp.
  • Roth, R. A. 2009. Freshwater aquatic biomes. Greenwood Press, Westport, CT.


USNVC Credits: Detailed Description of the National Vegetation Classification Types

Date Accessed:

To cite a description:
Author(s). publicationYear. Description Title [last revised revisionDate]. United States National Vegetation Classification. Federal Geographic Data Committee, Washington, D.C.

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About this document
This document contains type descriptions at the Formation level of the U.S. National Vegetation Classification. These descriptions were primarily written by NatureServe ecologists in collaboration with Federal Geographic Data Committee Vegetation Subcommittee and a wide variety of state, federal and private partners as a part of the implementation of the National Vegetation Classification. Formation descriptions were written by the Hierarchy Revisions Working Group. The descriptions are based on consultation with natural resource professionals, published literature, and other vegetation classification systems. The Ecological Society of America's Panel on Vegetation Classification is responsible for managing the review and formal adoption of these types into the National Vegetation Classification. Partners involved in the implementation of the USNVC include:

U.S. Government
  • Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Department of Commerce (DOC)
  • Department of Defense (DOD)
  • Department of the Interior (USDI)
  • Forest Service (FS) - Chair
  • National Agriculture Statistical Service (NASS)
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
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Non U.S. Government
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Disclaimer:
Given the dynamic nature of the standard, it is possible a type description is incomplete or in revision at the time of download; therefore, users of the data should track the date of access and read the revisions section of the USNVC.org website to understand the current status of the classification. While USNVC data have undergone substantial review prior to posting, it is possible that some errors or inaccuracies have remained undetected.

For information on the process used to develop these descriptions see:

Faber-Langendoen, D., T. Keeler-Wolf, D. Meidinger, D. Tart, B. Hoagland, C. Josse, G. Navarro, S. Ponomarenko, J.-P. Saucier, A. Weakley, P. Comer. 2014. EcoVeg: A new approach to vegetation description and classification. Ecological Monographs 84:533-561 (erratum 85:473).

Franklin, S., D. Faber-Langendoen, M. Jennings, T. Keeler-Wolf, O. Loucks, A. McKerrow, R.K. Peet, and D. Roberts. 2012. Building the United States National Vegetation Classification. Annali di Botanica 2: 1-9.

Jennings, M. D., D. Faber-Langendoen, O. L. Louckes, R. K. Peet, and D. Roberts. 2009. Standards for associations and alliances of the U.S. National Vegetation Classification. Ecological Monographs 79(2):173-199.

FGDC [Federal Geographic Data Committee]. 2008. Vegetation Classification Standard, FGDC-STD-005, Version 2. Washington, DC., USA. [http://www.fgdc.gov/standards/projects/FGDC-standards-projects/vegetation/NVCS_V2_FINAL_2008-02.pdf]

For additional information contact:

  • Implementation of the U.S. National Vegetation Classification Standard - Alexa McKerrow (amckerrow@usgs.gov)
  • NatureServe's Development of NVC Type Descriptions - Don Faber-Langendoen (don_faber- langendoen@natureserve.org)
  • Ecological Society of America's Review of the Type Descriptions Scott.Franklin@unco.edu
  • Federal Geographic Data Committee - Vegetation Subcommittee's Activities - Marianne Burke (mburke@fs.fed.us)