Life in Freshwater
There are two basic types of water that exists on our planet: freshwater and saltwater. The type of animals and plants that live and grow in each type differs for many reasons. Even the names of bodies of water are different between both saltwater and freshwater. Like their names, saltwater contains salt, while freshwater does not. When it comes to freshwater environments, they offer a diverse underwater world of plants, animals, and other species. By learning about freshwater environments, we can better understand how they thrive, and work towards making sure they stay clean to provide a healthy environment for the future.
Species that live in Freshwater
Freshwater is essential to all life, and all land dwelling animals (and humans) need it in order to survive. There are countless species of animals that live in fresh water. Some examples include trout, turtles, frogs, clams, snails, and countless other species of fish. Other animals like beavers and birds rely on freshwater ponds and lakes in order to have a food and water source. There are also many plants that exist in a freshwater habitat. Some freshwater plants include reeds, grasses, and lily pads. All of these animals and plants need each other to survive, so without clean abundant freshwater, the entire chain of life could be greatly affected.
Food Chain in Freshwater
Small microbes, bacteria, and tiny organisms live in fresh water. These microscopic organisms serve as food for larger creatures like flies, mosquitoes, and other small insects. These insects are then food for larger animals like fish, birds, and eels. Without the tiny organisms feeding the insects, the larger animals would not survive. As the fish and birds thrive on the insects that live near fresh water, even larger predators like eagles and heron eat these animals in order to sustain themselves and their young.
Freshwater can be still (static), or moving. Examples of static bodies of fresh water include ponds and lakes. This water typically does not move, and stays in one place. This makes for a healthy environment for plants to grow, particularly in ponds. The plants can easily root there without being destroyed due to movement. Lakes are usually deeper and larger than ponds, and can span for miles in any direction. Both ponds and lakes can change over time, however, mainly because of the levels of rainfall they receive and in times of drought. Both of these habitats can also be profoundly affected by humans because of development or drainage.
Unlike ponds and lakes, streams and rivers are examples of moving freshwater. Melted snow from glaciers and mountaintops as well as changing slopes can assist with the movement of the water in streams and rivers. These bodies of water typically move in a downward direction, and are part of the Earth's river cycle. Many streams and rivers flow into larger bodies of water known as deltas. They also carry material like silt and minerals from rocks downstream into the delta, which helps the delta to thrive. These bodies of water are important to humans, as they are a big supplier of water for people to drink.
Pollution and Freshwater
Sadly, humans have been slowly polluting many of our streams, ponds, lakes, and rivers. Often runoff from chemical plants, vehicle fuel, and even disposed medications can infiltrate the water supply. These harmful elements can eliminate the oxygen in the water that is needed for plants to grow and animals to live. Discarded trash is another problem that can sometimes be found around freshwater bodies. You can help by checking with your school or other local organizations to see if there are programs where you can help clean up the freshwater in your area. By working together and understanding the importance of freshwater, we can all make the world a better place and ensure that these vital bodies of water stay clean for many generations to come.
- Key Characteristics of Rivers and Streams
- Freshwater Ecoregions of the World
- Human Appropriation of the World's Water Supply
- Freshwater Habitats
- Freshwater Biome – Kids do Ecology
- Freshwater Ecosystems and Word Search
- Biomes: Freshwater
- Drinking Water Trivia Facts
- NASA Climate Kids: Fresh Water
- Photo Gallery: Freshwater Plants and Animals
- Wild Kids – Animals of Freshwater Habitats
- Biomes of the World: Freshwater
- Freshwater Plants
- Have Fun as You Learn About Water
- Easy Science for Kids: Freshwater Birds
- River and Stream Pollution
- Information about Rivers for Kids
- Ponds – Young People's Trust for the Environment
- Pond Animals
- Natureworks: Rivers and Streams
- Five Things You May Not Know About Rivers
Written By: Lynn Taylor