Types and characteristics of water bodies

Types and characteristics of water bodies

    • The aquatic biome can be broken down into two basic regions, freshwater (i.e., ponds and rivers) and marine (i.e., oceans and estuaries).

    • Fresh water is naturally occurring water on the Earth's surface in bogs, ponds, lakes, rivers and streams, and underground as groundwater in aquifers and underground streams. Freshwater is characterized by having low concentrations of dissolved salts (<1%) and other total dissolved solids. The term specifically excludes seawater and brackish water. Scientifically, freshwater habitats are divided into lentic systems, which are the still waters including ponds, lakes, swamps and mires; lotic systems, which are running water; and groundwater which flows in rocks and aquifers. There is, in addition, a zone which bridges between groundwater and lotic systems, which are the hyporheic zone, which underlies many larger rivers and can contain substantially more water than is seen in the open channel. It may also be in direct contact with the underlying groundwater.

    • The source of almost all freshwater is precipitation from the atmosphere, in the form of mist, rain and snow. A very small proportion is emitted from active volcanoes. Freshwater falling as mist, rain or snow contains materials dissolved from the atmosphere and material from the sea and land over which the rain bearing clouds have traveled. In industrialized areas rain is typically acidic because of dissolved oxides of sulfur and nitrogen formed from burning of fossil fuels in cars, factories, trains and aircraft and from the atmospheric emissions of industry. In extreme cases this acid rain results in pollution of lakes and rivers.
    • In coastal areas freshwater may contain significant concentrations of salts derived from the sea if windy conditions have lifted drops of seawater into the rain-bearing clouds.

    • This can give rise to elevated concentrations of sodium, chloride, magnesium and sulfate as well as many other compounds in smaller concentrations. In desert areas, or areas with impoverished or dusty soils, rain bearing winds can pick up sand and dust and this can be deposited elsewhere in precipitation and causing the freshwater flow to be measurably contaminated both by insoluble solids but also by the soluble components of those soils. Significant quantities of iron may be transported in this way including the well documented transfer of iron rich rainfall falling in Brazil derived from sand-storms in the Sahara in northern Africa.
    Water salinity based on dissolved salts in parts per thousand (ppt)
    Freshwater Brackish water Saline water Brine
    < 0.5 0.5 – 30 30 – 50 > 50

    • Freshwater Regions: Plants and animals in freshwater regions are adjusted to the low salt content and would not be able to survive in areas of high salt concentration (i.e., ocean). There are different types of freshwater regions: ponds and lakes, streams and rivers, and wetlands.

Last modified: Thursday, 29 March 2012, 9:02 PM