A fen is a type of wetland which is fed primarily by ground water. (Bogs, by contrast, are fed almost exclusively through precipitation.) The water is usually around 55° F (13° C), and never fully freezes. Like other wetlands, fens help reduce flooding, recharge aquifers (from which we pump drinking water) and purify groundwater.
Additionally, wetlands host a diverse and unique community of plants and animals. Although only about 5 percent of US land is wetland, about onethird of all known plants in the US are wetland plants! A significant number of endangered species—up to 45 percent nationally—rely on wetlands for at least part of their life cycle. This fen is home to species that are not found in other areas of the preserve.
Compare the wetland plant community with the surrounding woodlands. What differences do you see? You may notice that there are no trees in the fen – only a few shrubs. You may also note there are more species - higher diversity – here. The processes that recycle material in nature – such as the fungus decomposing the fallen logs – work slowly in most wetlands because the water blocks oxygen required for decomposition. Many nutrients are sequestered (tied up and unavailable for other organisms) in dead plant material, leaving few nutrients for new growth. Aggressive species that outcompete other species and lead to monocultures prefer higher nutrient levels. Low nutrient levels actually results in higher diversity!
More than 90 percent of Ohio’s wetlands have been drained or filled for agriculture or development. Only California boasts a higher percentage of lost wetlands.