Wetlands are the result of a combination of physical characteristics which drive wetland processes. Wetland functions are the result of interactions between the three major components of wetland ecosystems: hydrology, biology, and soils. These interactions produce complex chemical reactions and the transfer of materials and energy which drive wetland processes. Wetland processes - such as transfer of oxygen or nutrients and weathering of soil or rock - determine the functions of wetlands.
The figure below illustrates the complex relationships between hydrologic and biologic processes of wetlands.
Differences in the three major components of wetland ecosystems define different wetland types. Thus, different types of wetlands have specific functions and these functions provide specific values to Marylanders.
The State of Maryland Nontidal Wetlands Protection Act of 1989 designates eight statutory wetland functions which are summarized below (DNR, 1995). The table below provides a brief description of these primary functions.
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