Wetlands and Lakes

Differences Between Wetlands and Lakes – UPSC Environment Notes

Marine habitats encompass two main categories: Freshwater ecosystems include rivers, lakes, and ponds, while marine ecosystems comprise seas, estuaries, and mangroves. Wetlands and Lakes possess distinct features, constituting crucial components of the aquatic ecosystem. This article aims to elucidate the comparison between Lakes and Wetlands, providing valuable insights for environmental preparation in the context of the UPSC Civil Service exam.

Wetland Ecosystem

Wetland ecosystems serve as transitional zones bridging terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, forming an ecotone.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands defines wetlands as:

  • An area of marsh, fen, peatland,
  • Temporary or permanent, formed naturally or artificially,
  • Encompassing fresh, brackish, or salt water,
  • Where the depth of marine water at low tide will not exceed six meters of height.


  • Lakes according to the National Lake Conservation Program (NLCP):
    • Standing water bodies
    • Minimum water depth of 3 m
    • Water spread exceeding ten hectares
    • Little or no aquatic vegetation
  • Lakes are a diverse group of inland freshwater ecosystems worldwide.
  • They serve as vital:
    • Supplies and habitats for terrestrial and aquatic creatures
    • Purposes, including:
      • Regulating river flow
      • Storing water during dry seasons
      • Preserving the ecosystem
      • Producing hydroelectric power
  • Example Lakes:
    • Loktak Lake, Manipur
    • Thol Lake, Gujarat
    • Nal Sarovar, Gujarat
    • Udhwa Lake, Jharkhand.

Comparison Between Lakes and Wetlands

Based on NaturePermanent in natureTemporary and permanent
Based on OriginFormed due to tectonic activityShallow lakes not formed due to tectonic activities
Based on BiodiversityOften less essential than wetlandsSupport large populations and diversified fauna (birds, fish, macroinvertebrates); high conservation significance
Based on SizeCan be large or smallSmall bodies of water
Based on ConservationDefined by NLCP: Min depth 3m, spread >10 hectares, little aquatic vegetationTypically rich in nutrients, support diverse fauna, high conservation significance for biodiversity
Based on ProductivityConsidered less productiveVery important due to diverse ecological function and services; efficient in flood control
Dominant ProducerDominant producers are phytoplanktonsDominant producers are macrophytes
Excessive Macrophyte DevelopmentNot mentionedDegrades water quality and makes water body usage difficult in wetlands


Lakes and wetlands are crucial for ecological diversity and the protection of aquatic ecosystems. Lakes contribute services such as groundwater recharge and the maintenance of freshwater reserves. In contrast, wetlands offer advantages by preventing erosion, providing habitat for wildlife, and enhancing water quality.

FAQs on Differences Between Wetlands and Lakes

Question: What is the importance of Lakes?

Answer: Lakes hold significant ecological, social, and economic importance. They contribute to biodiversity, serve as water reservoirs for various uses, regulate river flow, and provide habitats for diverse aquatic life. Additionally, lakes play a role in recreational activities and can impact local climates.

Question: How are lakes formed?

Answer: Lakes are formed through various processes, with the primary mechanism being tectonic activity. This includes activities such as the shifting of tectonic plates leading to the creation of large lakes. Other processes involve glacial activities, volcanic actions, and human-made reservoirs. The origin of a lake influences its physiography and characteristics.

Question: What is the importance of the wetland ecosystem?

Answer: The wetland ecosystem holds immense importance for the environment and biodiversity conservation. Wetlands serve as transition zones between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, providing critical habitats for a diverse range of plants and animals. They contribute to water purification, flood control, and support numerous species, making them crucial for maintaining ecological balance and sustaining biodiversity.

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