Planet Earth is covered by a large volume of water, but only about 2.5% of this water is represented by freshwater, which means that the freshwater biome occupies a pretty small part of the planetary ecosystem.
The freshwater biomes can be found in ponds, lakes, water streams, rivers and inland wetlands.
Freshwater Biome Facts
- About 20% of the Earth’s surface is covered by freshwater biomes.
- The Florida Everglades located in South Florida, is considered the largest freshwater biome in the world.
- The largest volume of freshwater on the planet (99%) consists of ice or is located in aquifers.
- More than half percent of the water used by us for drinking, cooking and washing comes from freshwater biomes.
- The freshwater biome contains less than 1% salt water, which creates the perfect conditions for all the animals that cannot survive in salt water.
- The freshwater biome is divided into three groups: ponds and lakes, streams and rivers, and inland wetlands.
- There are four key features that are determining the ecology of rivers and streams such as: the flow of the water, amount of light received, the climate or the temperature, and the chemistry of the water.
Many species of birds and animals live in the freshwater biome
- More than 700 different species of fish can be found in the freshwater biome.
- Every freshwater biome is unique, but the temperature varies between 35° F and 75° F (2° C and 24° C) with some exceptions on the Amazon River where during the summer the temperature can reach the value of 82 °F (28 °C).
- Besides fishes, many other animals can be found in the freshwater biome such as: crocodiles, hippos, water rats, turtles and frogs.
- We can find plenty of grass and plants in the freshwater biome, but almost no trees.
- Many insects are populating the freshwater biome, some of them are considered pests such as flies and mosquitoes. However, these annoying insects have an important role in the freshwater biome because they represent the food source of many animals, birds, and amphibians.
- The Nile in Africa, is the longest river in the world, and is part of the freshwater biome.
- The Amazon River in South America is the second longest river in the world, but is considered the largest river in the world after the volume of water carried into the sea, and is part of the freshwater biome
Types of Freshwater Biomes
There are several types of freshwater biomes around the world.
Lakes and Ponds
Lakes and ponds are known as inland bodies of standing water.
Ponds are usually small bodies of water (starting from a few square meters in surface), but lakes can be large bodies of water measuring up to thousands of square kilometers in surface.
Lakes can be filled with water for only a few weeks or months during the year, but we also have lakes created by nature who have been here for hundreds of years.
Lakes and ponds have no connection with other water sources, and the freshwater biome created by the standing water can sustain only a smaller number of plants and animals.
However, lakes and ponds are usually used as water sources by animals living in the area.
Being a freshwater biome that consists of standing water, we can find here animals such as: snails, worms, crayfish, plankton, many insects, turtles, frogs and a many species of fishes like trout, salmon, bass, perch, catfish, northern pike and many others.
Plants that can be found in lakes and ponds consist of water lilies, bulrush, duckweed, cattails, stonewort, bladderwort and pickerelweed.
Rivers and Streams
The water in rivers and streams always flow in only one direction that begins at the source being called headwater and travels to the mouth where the flowing water empties into a larger body of water.
In contrast to the lakes and ponds, the water in rivers and streams is in continuous movement.
The slope of the landscape determines the direction and the speed of the water flow, and when the slope is steep, the water flows with high speed and when is not that steep, the water will flow at slower speed.
In areas where the river is deeper, the number of plants and animals that can be found there increases.
The rivers located in colder areas of the planet may have a good flow during the spring and summer, but the freezing temperatures of the winter will freeze them almost completely.
Many plants, animals and birds live along the edge of the river.
We can find here plants such as pine trees, tape grass, willow trees, water stargrass, cattails, moss, river birch and lilies.
Animals and birds such as ducks, frogs, pike, crayfish, turtles, snakes, snails, worms, beavers, crocodiles and a large variety of insects.
Wetlands are areas of standing water known as marshes, swamps or bogs.
Wetlands are saturated with water, and they support a large variety of aquatic plants called wetland plant species or hydrophytes that grow in the moist conditions specific to the swamps.
Here we can find plants such as pond lilies, cattails and willows.
A large number of amphibian species live here such as frogs, salamanders and crocodiles, but also beavers, racoons, minks and deers.
Freshwater Biome Location
The freshwater biome can be found everywhere in the world.
In fact, anywhere on the planet where we have a lake, a pond, a river, a water stream or a wetland we actually have a freshwater biome.
The largest freshwater biomes on the planet are located in the Midwest U.S. and Canada (the Great Lakes), in the U.S. (the Florida Everglades), in South America (the Amazon River), in South Central Africa (Lake Victoria) in Central Africa (the Nile River), in Russia (Lake Baikal) and in India and Bangladesh (the Ganges River) and China (the Yangtze River).
Freshwater Biome Climate
The freshwater biome covers only 0.8% of the water on the planet, but is distributed all around the world, so the climate specific to each freshwater biome can be very diverse and related to the region where the river, the pond, the lake or the swamp is located.
Freshwater Biome Temperature
The freshwater biome has an average temperature during the summer between 65 °F and 75 °F (18 °C and 24 °C), even 82 °F (28 °C) on the Amazon river, and between 35 °F and 45 °F (2 °C and 7 °C) during the winter.
However, in every freshwater biome, the temperature decreases with the depth of water.
Freshwater Biome Plants and Trees
The plants specific to the freshwater biome can be found floating on the surface of the lakes and ponds such as lily pads.
In the case of rivers and streams, the plants and trees can be found along the edge of the water.
We can find there vegetation such as stargrass, coontails and tape grass, and also trees such as willows, cottonwoods and river birch.
Some trees can be found also in the shallow waters of the rivers and streams or in water with reduced flow.
The wetlands such as swamps, ditches, marshes or bogs are full of mud due to the standing water and here we can find plants like duckweed and cattails, and also trees that include black spruce, cypress and tamarack.
Animals in Freshwater Biome
The freshwater biome is home for many species of animals, birds and insects due to the fact that the water contains less than 1% salt water.
Here we can find plankton, bacteria, blue and green algae, hundreds of species of fish such as salmon, trout, bass, perch, northern pike, catfish and many others.
Amphibians such as toads, frogs and salamanders.
Reptiles such as crocodiles, small lizards, snakes and turtles.
Many types of birds, including here ducks, swans, geeses and others.
Snails, worms, leeches, otters, beavers, deers and a large variety of insects such as mosquitoes, flies, ticks, dragonflies and others.
All these animals, birds and insects can be found in the water or at the edge of the rivers and streams.
Threats to Freshwater Biomes
The freshwater biome is affected today by numerous threats such as pollution, global warming and climate change, human activity and due to the presence of the invasive species of plants and animals.
People forget the fact that the freshwater biome is essential for our survival because almost 50% of the water that we use everyday for drinking, cooking and washing is provided by the freshwater biome.
Today, many lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and wetlands around the world are severely damaged by the human activities and they’ve started to decline at a much faster rate than other terrestrial biomes.
Watersheds have the role of catching the precipitation and send it to rivers, streams and lakes, and they suffer due to the pollution caused by humans.
In recent decades, more than 1/5 of the fish species found in the freshwater biome have become extinct due to the pollution caused by the human activity.
The main threats affecting the freshwater biome
- Human activity involving dams creation and water-diversion systems is blocking the migration routes of the fish, disrupting this way their habitats.
- The leaks from agricultural and urban areas is hurting the water quality.
- Withdrawing freshwater for human use leads to the degradation and shrinking of the freshwater biome.
- The human development that requires the draining of wetlands leads to a reduction of the freshwater biome.
- Overexploitation and the pollution of the soil caused by the extraction processes threatens the groundwater supplies.
- The invasive species are harming the native species of animals and plants specific to the freshwater biome.
- Global warming can cause devastating floods during the spring and severe droughts during the summer, which affects the freshwater biome.
How to save the freshwater biome?
There are several solutions to save the freshwater biome
- Water withdrawal for human use must be regulated
- The construction of dams must be restricted to protect the freshwater biome.
- Wetlands must be considered protected areas.
- Governments must provide incentives for the farming businesses in order to reduce the use of pesticides.
The freshwater biome can be saved if we understand that the freshwater resources are limited and indispensable for life, and we learn how to protect them for us and the future generations.