Wetlands Overview

Glossary of Terms



Wetland Science and MACWA

Glossary of Terms


Acoustic surveys A research method to map the bottom of waterways using sound waves.
Adaptive management Adapting and applying lessons learned to natural resources management.
Ambient water Average water quality conditions in waterbodies, such as rivers, streams, lakes, and bays.
Anadromous [fish] Fish that migrate from salt water to fresh water to reproduce.
Anthropogenic Humans’ effects on the natural world.
Aquaculture The process of breeding and raising aquatic organisms, such as shellfish and fish.
Aquifer An underground sediment layer that can store and move water through the ground.
Baseline conditions An environmental condition monitored before a program or project is implemented (i.e., monitoring chemical, physical, or biological conditions before a restoration project is implemented).
Benthic Referring to the bottom of a waterbody.
Best management practice (BMP) A practice that is effective and practical in preventing or reducing water pollution
Bioaccumulate The buildup of a contaminant in an organism’s tissues attributable to breathing, drinking, and/or eating contaminants.
Brackish A mix of fresh and salt water.
Brownfield A former industrial or commercial property the redevelopment of which a hazardous substance may affect.
Bulkheads A manmade hard structure, like a wall, that divides the land and a waterway and has been used traditionally to protect shorelines and stop coastal erosion.
Climate change A change in the earth‘s climate and usual weather patterns associated with an increase in global average temperature and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Combined sewer systems Sewers that collect rainwater/stormwater runoff and sewage in the same pipe. Most often, the flow is transported to a sewage treatment plant, treated, and then discharged into a waterway. However, during a heavy storm, the combined stormwater and wastewater can overwhelm the system’s capacity and overflow into waterways untreated.
Connectivity Land parcels ‘proximity, particularly related to preserving lands. Conservation: The act of preserving, protecting, or restoring natural resources.
Delaware Estuary The portion of the Delaware River and Bay that tides influence. The Delaware Estuary extends from Cape May, NJ and Lewes, DE, to Trenton, NJ.
Delaware River Basin The land area and streams that drain to the Delaware River. This area covers parts of four states: Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York.
Diadromous Fish that spend parts of their life cycles in both fresh and salt water.
Dissolved Oxygen The amount of oxygen dissolved in the water, or the amount of oxygen available to things that live in the water.
Dredging The act of removing sediment from a river bottom with a dredge and disposing it elsewhere.
Ecological Living organisms and their interactions with one another and their environment.
Ecosystem Plants, animals, and other organisms that live together in their surrounding environment.
Ecosystem services Benefits to humans and nature that an ecosystem provides. Ecosystem services sometimes can be associated with monetary values.
Emerging contaminants Pharmaceuticals, chemicals, plastics, or other forms of pollution that are not understood fully or regulated because of insufficient knowledge of the way they can enter the environment or affect humans and ecosystems.
Environmental justice Equal treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies, as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Ephemeral stream A stream that only flows briefly during and after rainfall or snowmelt.
Erosion The breakdown and removal for material such as soil, sand and rock by natural forces.
Estuary Area of a river that is tidal and where fresh and salt waters mix together.
Eutrophication Condition in which waterways have too many nutrients from land runoff and suffer from low dissolved oxygen and possible algal blooms
Floodplain Low-lying land bordering a river or stream that is susceptible to flooding.
Fresh water Any water that is not seawater or brackish. (Often used as a one word adjective “freshwater” to describe lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds.)
Goals Central actions in the Delaware Estuary that this document seeks to accomplish.
Green infrastructure (sometimes Green Stormwater Infrastructure or GSI) A suite of tactics that use natural systems to solve water management problems, including runoff, erosion, and/or local waterways’ pollution. Examples of green infrastructure that combat urban stormwater runoff include pervious pavement, rain gardens, green roofs, and tree trenches, while living shorelines and wetlands are types of green infrastructure that can clean water and protect coastal communities.
Groundwater Water held in soil pores and rock fractures in a saturated layer beneath Earth’s surface.
Headwater A tributary close to or forming part of the river’s source of water.
Head of Tide A river’s head of tide is the farthest point upstream that is affected by tides. Upstream of the head of tide, water levels are no longer considered tidal.
Hybrid Term referring to a type of living shoreline that incorporates both nature- based and traditional hard infrastructure in the design.
Hydrophobic Matter that repels water. Impervious: Surface, such as a road or walkway, that water cannot penetrate.
Impervious Surface, such as a road or walkway, that water cannot penetrate.
Infiltration Water filtering into the ground and replenishing groundwater systems such as aquifers.
Invasive species A type of plant, animal, or organism that is not native to a specific area that often spreads rapidly and damages existing ecosystems.
Living shorelines A method of shoreline stabilization that uses natural materials, such as coconut fiber logs, oyster shells, and native plants, to provide shoreline protection and other ecosystem services.
Management Conference The Core Partners of the Delaware Estuary Program Management Conference include representatives of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), Regions 2 and 3 of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPAR2, EPAR3) the City of Philadelphia’s Water Department (PWD), and the Board of Directors of the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE).
Mitigation Projects Projects completed to offset planned damage natural resources, such as wetlands, streams, etc., suffer.
Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4): A piping system that conveys only stormwater (not combined sewer) to waterways (not a wastewater treatment plant), that is owned by a municipal public entity (state, city, town, village, etc.). Under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program (NPDES), some MS4 communities are regulated to minimize effects from stormwater pollution.
Native species Species that are found naturally and thrive in a specific ecosystem.
Nature-based Practices that incorporate and enhance nature and natural features to address concerns such as flooding, pollution, etc., while helping maintain and improve ecological function and resiliency of important habitats.
Nonpoint source pollution Pollution that derives from different sources over a large area, rather than from one identifiable location. For example, nonpoint source pollution can include sediment from farms, fertilizers from yards, and pet waste runoff, among others.
Nutrient loading The amount of nutrients entering a waterbody over a certain period.
Ocean acidification The condition in which the ocean water’s pH decreases and becomes more acidic because more carbon dioxide (CO2) enters the ocean as a result of climate change. This can result in harmful changes to coral reefs and other calcifying species in the oceans
Perennial stream A stream that is flowing throughout the year from surface water, groundwater, or both.
Point source pollution Pollution derived from a single, definite source, such as wastewater treatment plants, outfalls, etc
Pollutant loading The amount of pollutant or substance entering a waterbody over a certain period. Propagation
Potable Water that is safe for human drinking or food preparation, often fresh water that has gone through a treatment process.
Propagation (fish): Helping fish reproduce with parent stock through natural processes (such as a fish hatchery).
Remediation Removing chemicals, pollution, and/or contaminates to rectify environmental damage and in some cases promote redevelopment.
Resilience The ability of an ecosystem or community to recover or adapt after a disturbance occurs, especially including events due to climate change and human activities.
Riparian Referring to the area or habitat that is situated along the riverbank or next to a river.
Salt marsh Grass dominated coastal wetlands where the river meets the sea. Salt marshes are drained and flooded by the tides daily. The grasses tolerate salt water flooding to varying degrees. The two most common grasses mark the two main areas of the marsh. Cordgrass grows at lower elevations in the low marsh and is flooded at the high tides. Salt hay grows at higher elevations in the high marsh and is only flooded at the highest high tides (spring tides) in the month.
Salt-water intrusion The process of salt water creeping inland gradually as a result of rising sea levels, over use of groundwater, etc.
Shell planting Placing oyster shells in waterways to increase oyster habitat on which populations grow. Spawning: Related to an organism’s reproduction, such as releasing eggs.
Spawning Related to an organism’s reproduction, such as releasing eggs.
Spit A deposition coastal landform, made of sand and beach material, that sticks off the mainland into the sea. Spits are formed through the processes of longshore drift, the shape of the coastline and prevailing winds
Steering Committee Committee comprised of agency leaders that work together to provide the policy and financial framework needed to set and achieve goals for the Delaware Estuary as part of the National Estuary Program.
Storm surge Wind associated with storms increase wave height and energy, thereby driving water inland at heights above normal levels.
Stormwater runoff Water generated by storms in the form of rain or snow that flows over land or impervious surfaces and enters streams rather than infiltrating into the ground. Stormwater runoff often carries nutrients and sediments from the land and therefore, is a type of nonpoint source pollution.
Strategy The plan of action that DELEP and other partners will take to reach the revised CCMP’s common goals and objectives.
Superfund site A site or area contaminated by hazardous waste that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has selected for remediation.
Surface water Water above the Earth’s surface, including oceans, streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds.
Sustainable Population or resource is used in a way that is not damaging or depleting.
Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) The regulated amount of a pollutant that is permitted to enter an impaired waterway to comply with water quality standards.
Tidal creek Drainage channel of a salt marsh
Tidal flat Also known as ‘mud flats’, a muddy, depositional, non-vegetated interidal wetland habitat
Tidal inlet A narrow channel connecting the open ocean or sea with a bay, lagoon, estuary or tidal creek system. Tidal inlets are formed when barrier islands are breached or when through the formation of a spit.
Tidal range The water level difference between high tide water and low tide water.
Tide The alternating rise and fall (usually twice a day) of Earth’s oceans and seas as a result of the gravitational attraction of the Moon and the Sun.
Tributary A waterway that drains to a larger stream or river.
Underserved communities A community with environmental justice concerns and/or vulnerable populations, including minority, low income, rural, tribal, and indigenous populations, as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Water quality The chemical, physical, and biological components of water; implies whether a stream or river is sufficiently healthy to support humans, plants, and animals.
Water table The level below which soil pores and rock fractures are saturated with water (see groundwater).
Watershed Area of the land that drains to a single water body, also referred to as a drainage basin or catchment.
WetIands Land that is saturated with water constantly or seasonally and can include marshes (tidal or non- tidal), bogs, and swamps.
Working waterfront Areas where high economic value and high ecological value intersect. These areas are important because of the recreation and tourism opportunities they offer, as well as existing or potential fisheries or industries dependent on the Estuary.