Wetland covers a constellation of names and traits, but all generally refer to an ecosystem, land covered by shallow water and dependent on constant or recurrent inundation. A short string of wetland forms: swamp, ciénega, marsh, fen, tulare, pocosin, vernal pool, sponge bog, quaking bog. A wetland may be freshwater, saltwater, or brackish. Found over the full swath of the continent, from Alaska’s muskegs to the South’s cypress swamps, with the inland marshes of the Great Basin in between. Found along lakes and rivers, or in isolation, a pothole on a prairie, restless with skeins of birds. In A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold frames an image of wetland diversity: “Out on the bog a crane, gulping some luckless frog, springs his ungainly bulk into the air and flails the morning sun with mighty wings.”

Ellen Meloy