Wetzel, Robert G. Department of Biological Science, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
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- Ecosystem structure
- Diversity of habitats
- Relation to society
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
A physiologically interactive system within which growth, adaptation, species composition, nutrient cycling, biological productivity, and energy flows among inland aquatic microbial, plant, and animal communities are integrated with the environment. Freshwater ecosystems include the living organisms and nonliving materials of inland aquatic environments (Fig. 1). These inland waters include lakes, ponds, reservoirs, rivers, streams, swamps, and wetlands. Limnology is a discipline involved in the study of these waters and seeks to evaluate how the relationships of these waters regulate, and are regulated by, natural and anthropogenic (human-induced) variations in the physical, chemical, and biotic environments. The standing-water (lentic) lake or reservoir ecosystem is intimately coupled with the land in its surrounding drainage area and with its running (lotic) waters that change chemical components from the land as they are transported to the lake. Often, the land–water interface supports productive wetlands, that is, areas of shallow water often found at the edge of lakes (littoral zone) or along rivers (floodplain). See also: Ecological communities; Ecology; Ecosystem; Hydrology; Limnology; Reservoir; Swamp, marsh, and bog; Water; Water resources; Wetlands
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