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WETLANDS larger fish, mammals, or swimming birds, animals can occupy both shallow and deeper waters. As the water becomes shallower at the edges of lakes, the penetration of sunlight to the bottom allows more plant species to grow on the submerged surface of the mud, though this depends in part how turbid, or murky, the waters are. If the water carries a heavy load of suspended material, such as silts, clays, or organic matter, then light penetration is poor and bottomliving plants can grow only in very shallow areas.

The papyrus marshes of Lake Victoria and other lakes in East Africa are often affected by wave action resulting from storms on this very large lake. The effect of the waves splits up the papyrus rafts into floating islands that are set adrift on the waters of the lake. Similar floating “meadows” of aquatic vegetation can be found in the Amazon basin of Brazil, especially during periods of flood. Marshes can form very extensive habitats. The saw-grass marshes of the Florida Everglades are impressively large areas of wetland; yet even these are dwarfed by the Esteros del Ibera in Argentina, a marsh-dominated wetland of almost 4,000 square miles (10,000 sq km), and the Sudd marshes of the Nile in southern Sudan of Africa, which cover around 40,000 square miles (100,000 sq km).

In fact, this is an oversimplification of the course of events because there are many species of bog moss. Each species has its own requirements in terms of water chemistry, surface wetness, the acidity, and the degree of shade. The different bog mosses often replace one another as the succession proceeds: With shade-tolerant species occurring at first, and shade-intolerant species replacing them as the trees die, the canopy opens, and full sunlight strikes the ground. Bog mosses do not require contact with the soil, so they can grow directly on top of the underlying layer of moss.

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