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Wetland Plants and Plant Communities of Minnesota and Wisconsin

III. INLAND FRESH MEADOWS


Inland fresh meadows are essentially closed wetland communities (nearly 100 percent vegetative cover) composed of perennial forb, grass, and sedge mixtures growing on saturated soils. Woody plants are not dominant, and standing water is usually only present during floods and snowmelt. Inland fresh meadows often form a transition zone between aquatic communities and uplands. Peat/muck soils are frequently present, indicating permanent saturation and anaerobic conditions. Plants occurring in inland fresh meadows include species found in other communities, such as the annuals of seasonally flooded basins, emergent aquatics of marshes, and invading shrubs or trees, which are present as scattered, small individuals. The forbs, grasses, and sedges of inland fresh meadows can tolerate inundation to a greater degree than most woody species, but they suffer if inundation during the growing season lasts for more than one or two weeks. Because these wetlands lack standing water during most of the growing season, they are often called "dry marshes."

Inland fresh meadows are particularly important for their water quality protection functions. These involve the trapping of sediments and assimilation of nutrients. Inland fresh meadows are also important for stormwater and floodwater retention. Wildlife habitat is provided for many species including sandhill crane, ring-necked pheasant, common snipe, sedge wren, small mammals, and white-tailed deer. The abundance of small mammals supports mink, fox, and raptors such as the northern harrier. The composites found in these meadows are an important fall and winter food source for songbirds. Inland fresh meadows are often used for pasture or cut for "marsh hay."

Inland fresh meadows include two of the rarest wetland plant communities -- calcareous fen and wet/wet-mesic prairie -- that support a disproportionate number of rare, threatened and endangered species.


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