Glossary of Wetland Terms

Brackish  – Slightly salty due to the mixture of river water and seawater.

Carolina bay  – Elliptical-shaped depressions found along the eastern seaboard in the flat coastal plain with a concentration in North and South Carolina. Carolina bays are often wetlands that can saturated soil supporting shurb vegetation or permanently flooded with a canopy of cypress trees. Somebays are wet enough to be lakes like Lake Waccamaw.

Ecoregion – An ecologically and geographically defined area which includes the Mountains, Piedmont, and Coastal Plain ecoregions of NC

Estuary – A semi-enclosed coastal body of water, which has a free connection with the open sea, and within sea water is measurably diluted with freshwater from land drainage. Estuaries often form at the mouth of rivers and are a highly important nursery area for many species of fish and shellfish.

Floodplain – An area of low-lying flat ground adjacent to rivers formed mainly of river sediments and subject to flooding.

Herb – Any seed bearing plant that does not have a woody stem and dies down to the ground after flowering.

Herbaceous – Herbaceous plants are plants with no persistent woody stem above the ground. Herbaceous plants include annuals, biannuals, and perennials that die back in freezing temperatures.

Hydroperiod – the seasonal pattern of the water level that results from the combination of the water budget and the storage capacity of the wetland. Accounting for frequency and duration as well as water level.

Hummocky – Covered with hummocks, small mounds rising above the wetland ground surface often formed by vegetation, organic debris build up and decaying tree stumps.

Hydrology –  The presence, quantity and movement of water.

Inundated – Hydrologic term that means the soil surface is covered with a measureable depth of water; also means flooded.

Impermeable – Not allowing fluid to pass through.

Impoundment – The result of a feature (man-made or natural)  that acts as a dam, creating an upstream open water feature.

Interstream flat – The broad flat area of the Coastal Plain landscape found between the floodplains of rivers, creeks, and streams. Often wet due to lack of nearby natural drainage outlets.

Levee – A ridge of sediment deposited naturally alongside a river by overflowing water.

Natural drainage features – Features identified on topographic maps at U-shaped contour lines also referred to as “topographic crenellations”.

Mineral soil – Soil derived from minerals or rocks, containing little organic matter.

Mucky mineral soil – A mineral soil with an organic muck content of at least 5% (also see mineral soil and organic soil).

Organic soil – Soil derived from organic material including muck, decaying vegetation, mucky peat, and peat soils found in wetlands.

Perched water table – An accumulation of ground water located above the ground water table and above a zone of soil that is not saturated. The perched water is usually trapped above a layer of impermeable material.

Pluff mudd – The slippery, shiny brown-gray, mud with a distinctive smell like none other, of the tidal flats..

Saturated –  In terms of wetland soil, holding as much water or moisture as can be absorbed, thoroughly soaked.

Sediment – Solid fragments of inorganic and organic material that come from weathering of rock and are carried and deposited by wind, water, and ice.

Silt – Granular material derived from quartz or feldspar with grain size larger then clay and smaller then sand. Silt occurs in soil or can be suspended in bodies of water like rivers and streams.

Storm surge – Tidal flooding due to storm events.

Understory – The layer of vegetation beneath the main canopy of a forest (shrubs and saplings).

Vernal pool – Small seasonally flooded depressions with gently sloping sides. Often found in sandy uplands may or may not be shown on maps due to the small size. They can occur in a wide variety of habitats from uplands to floodplains statewide.  They are also knows as seasonal pools or ephemeral pools, and many are very important to amphibians that require relatively predator free wetlands for breeding.

Watershed – A watershed is a basin-like landform defined by high points and ridge lines that descend into lower elevations and stream valleys. Land activities (e.g. agriculture, forestry, urbanization, industrialization) affect water quality for all communities living downstream in a watershed.

Wildlife – all animals living in nature, which would include all vertebrate and invertebrate species.

Woody – A plant that produces wood as a structural tissue, shrubs, trees, saplings, seedlings, woody vines.