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Brent Humphreys

Pop Quiz: Wetlands
Wetlands come in all shapes and sizes. Some kinds (saltwater and freshwater marshes, for instance) are well known, while others (playas and vernal pools) are less familiar. But you already know this . . . right? See what you really know by taking the short test below. You know all this . . . or don't you. Take the short test below, and then check your answers (including explanations) at the bottom of the page.

1) What government agency issues permits for projects that affect the nation's waterways?
A. Natural Resources Conservation Service
B. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
C. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

2) In what year was the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, popularly known as the Clean Water Act, originally enacted?
A. 1948
B. 1962
C. 1972

3) Where would you find a pocosin?
A. the Southwest
B. the Southeast
C. the Great Plains

4) Which wetland provides vital habitat for California tiger salamanders?
A. fen
B. wet meadow
C. California vernal pool

5) In the upper reaches of the Midwest, receding glaciers carved depressions in the landscape that fill with snowmelt and rain. These wetlands are called __________.
A. prairie potholes
B. bogs
C. playas



1) B. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the agency in charge of issuing permits that affect national water resources.

2) A. The Clean Water Act was enacted in 1948. Major amendments were enacted in 1961, 1966, 1970, 1972, 1977, and 1987.

3) B. A pocosin is a wetland found along the southern Atlantic coast. Named for an Algonquin term meaning “swamp on a hill,” these isolated wetlands often exist at higher elevations and therefore get most of their water from rain, though usually they do not hold standing water. The female Hessel’s hairstreak butterfly is an emerald green and reddish brown insect that lays its eggs on the Atlantic white cedar trees that thrive in pocosin habitat, but are frequently logged. Agriculture and timber companies own approximately half of the remaining pocosins.

4) C. Found in western grasslands, vernal pools have clay or bedrock bottoms that alternately retain rainwater and dry to a dusty pan. Plants and animals that inhabit these environments have adapted to such extremes. The California tiger salamander burrows into the soil when it’s still moist and lies dormant through the dry season. When the rains come, the salamanders reemerge.

5) A. Prairie potholes are found most often in the Upper Midwest, especially in the Dakotas, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. These wetlands help reduce flooding by retaining and absorbing water. Often lined with bulrushes and cattails and filled with floating aquatic plants, they can be temporary or permanent. More than 50 percent of migratory waterfowl rely on prairie potholes for habitat. The EPA estimates that at least half of the original prairie potholes have already been drained or changed for agriculture. 

Feature story link to "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow."

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