, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 623-640
Date: 08 Jul 2011

A Classification of Major Naturally-Occurring Amazonian Lowland Wetlands

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Abstract

Our estimates indicate that about 30% of the seven million square kilometers that make up the Amazon basin comply with international criteria for wetland definition. Most countries sharing the Amazon basin have signed the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance but still lack complete wetland inventories, classification systems, and management plans. Amazonian wetlands vary considerably with respect to hydrology, water and soil fertility, vegetation cover, diversity of plant and animal species, and primary and secondary productivity. They also play important roles in the hydrology and biogeochemical cycles of the basin. Here, we propose a classification system for large Amazonian wetland types based on climatic, hydrological, hydrochemical, and botanical parameters. The classification scheme divides natural wetlands into one group with rather stable water levels and another with oscillating water levels. These groups are subdivided into 14 major wetland types. The types are characterized and their distributions and extents are mapped.