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Wat erlogging is a term used to describe the saturation of ground or wood. The saturation renders the ground, wood, or other object unfit for use. When an area of ground is waterlogged, water saturation is so complete that the land cannot be used for a variety of activities, such as sports or recreation. Heavy rains or floods can waterlog ground for a period of time. Ground that is waterlogged has a water table that is virtually the same as the surface of the ground. In some cases, this can have positive consequences. For example, rice shoots are planted in ground that is flooded, and as the water recedes the rice continues to grow, but it would be damaged by waterlogging near harvest time.
Most agricultural production is harmed by waterlogging, with salinization a consequence. Many crops need oxygen in their growing process. Soil that is loose and allows the presence of air aids the growth of some plants, and waterlogging blocks the oxygen from the plant. If the roots of plants are blue-black, they are exhibiting a typical sign of waterlogging. Other signs are a smell of sour rotting or leaves that turn yellow and wither or whose midribs turn dark. Evergreens are very prone to leaf coloration changes that turn leaves brown. In addition because the plant cannot take in water properly, shoots at the extremities may die and bark may easily peel off of the shoots. Plant growth is also stunted.
Herbaceous plants are intolerant of waterlogging and may fail to sprout. Or they may sprout in the spring, open leaves, and then die. If the ground in an area or region has an impermeable layer, such as a clay layer under a thin topsoil, waterlogging can occur. Areas with a water table that is perched on top of an impermeable clay lay will drain only slowly in the direction of the lowest level. Agriculture in such an area can suffer from heavy rains. When fields are irrigated excessive waterlogging can occur. Fields that are poorly drained or that have soils that absorb and retain water are prone to this condition. If the irrigation comes from canals that seep into the water table, water is raised to the surface and thereby harms the crops in the affected fields.
Researchers have estimated that approximately 10 percent of the arable land in the world is waterlogged. This has caused a crop loss of approximately 20 percent in the affected areas. In contrast to farmland that suffers from waterlogging, wild lands, swamps, and other forms of wetlands benefit from it. The great basin in south Florida in which the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee are situated are areas in which waterlogging is extremely beneficial and necessary. The wetlands of the area constitute a form of natural wealth because they serve as natural pollution filters, water sources for the recharging of aquifers, places that support fisheries, and protection from storms and storm surges.
- K. Gupta ed., Crop Production in Waterlogged Saline Soils (Scientific Publishers, 1997);
- Edward Malthy, Waterlogged Wealth (Earthscan, 2006).