Learning about Bodies of Water
Did you know that 70% of the earthâs surface is covered in water? Even more intriguing is the fact that the worldâs oceans hold roughly 96.5% of all water on earth. Yet water can also be found in rivers, lakes, glaciers, aquifers, and even as water vapour.
Types of Bodies of Water on Earth
To fully appreciate the beauty and value of our worldâs most precious resource, water, it helps to better understand the different types of water bodies that can be found on earth.
Water body types are vast and may include:
- Creek: Water found in a gulch or dry creek bed that often fills after seasonal rain.
- Bay: Body of water that has land borders on three sides.
- Bayou: Water found in a marsh-like lake or stagnant stream.
- Canal: A man-made water channel that often connects rivers, lakes, and oceans.
- Estuary: A partially enclosed ocean body with one or more streams or rivers that flow to it.
- Glacier: A frozen river or ice mound that slowly flows down a mountain.
- Lake: A freshwater body normally surrounded by land.
- Marsh: A wetland that contains reeds, grasses, and other herbs in a shallow body of water.
- Ocean: A large body of saltwater.
- Pond: A small body of freshwater, often surrounded by land.
- River: A natural water channel flowing from higher to lower ground.
- Sea: A large body of saltwater that connects to an ocean.
- Spring: Water that flows from the ground into a larger body of water called an aquifer.
- Stream: A small body of flowing water with a current.
Further information on water body categories can be found at:
- World Atlas: Significant bodies of water throughout the world that include gulfs, lakes, oceans, and rivers.
- Lake Scientist: Different types of freshwater bodies.
- GlobalWater.org: Explanation of the water cycle, also called the hydrologic cycle.
- San Joaquin County Resource Conservation District: California wetlands information system on the history and status of Californiaâs Central Valley.
- Chebucto.ns.ca: The largest, highest, and lowest saline lakes found in the world.
- USGS Water Science School: Where is earthâs water located?
- TheWorldsOceans.com: Important facts about the five oceans of the world.
- InfoPlease.com: A comprehensive table of the average area and depth of oceans and seas in the world.
- MapsoftheWorld.com: A map of oceans and seas surrounding each continent.
- Wise Geek: A list of the largest bodies of water in the world.
Freshwater Versus Saltwater Bodies
Within the vast amount of water that covers the earthâs surface, water bodies can be distinctly classified as either freshwater or saltwater. As you know, humans canât safely drink saltwater in order to survive. Our bodies require freshwater to stay hydrated and support daily function, as well as to shower, wash clothing, and clean dishes.
Examples of freshwater bodies include Lake Superior and Lake Michigan in the US. Examples of saltwater bodies include major oceans like the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and Indian Ocean.
The major difference between freshwater and saltwater is this: Water that contains a dissolved salt content of less than 1% is classified as freshwater; water with a higher salt quantity is classified as saltwater.
Freshwater can be found in stagnant bodies of water like ponds and lakes, as well as flowing bodies of water like streams and rivers. Freshwater makes up roughly 1% of the earthâs surface. Conversely, saltwater can be found in major oceans and seas, as well as saltwater rivers and ponds. Saltwater makes up 71% of the earthâs surface.
Plant and animal life found in saltwater and freshwater bodies are vastly different as well. Saltwater fish are much more sensitive to environmental changes and require stable water pH, salinity, nitrate, and temperature levels. Freshwater fish found in lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers are much more adaptable to changes in water chemistry and are often kept as household pets in an aquarium.
Detailed resources on freshwater and saltwater bodies can be found at:
- DifferenceBetween.net: The difference between saltwater versus freshwater.
- University of California Museum of Paleontology: Information on the marine biome covering three fourths of the earthâs surface.
- PhysicalGeography.net: Introduction to the hydrosphere, impacting water storage for oceans, lakes, glaciers, and rivers.
- FreshWaterLife.org: Understanding the importance of freshwater on earth.
- Palomar.edu: Discovering why the ocean is a saltwater body.
10 Notable Bodies of Water Around the World
You can often find impressive, well-known bodies of water when traveling the world or even in your very own backyard. Some of the most famous bodies of water around the world include:
- Amazon River: The Amazon River can be found in South America and is the largest river in the world. Each day, the Amazon is responsible for dispensing 50 gallons of water per second into the Atlantic Ocean.
- Coral Sea: This body of water can be found just off the coast of Australia and contains the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef on earth.
- Caspian Sea: This intriguing body of water is bordered by five different countries: Turkmenistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Iran. The Caspian Sea contains saltwater, although it is technically considered a lake since it is landlocked.
- Congo River: Also called the Zaire River, this body of water is located in Africa and is an impressive 3000 miles long. The Congo waters are known for their power and potential danger as rapids gather at the end of the river.
- Hudson Bay: This bay is the largest in the world and connects to the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. There you will find exotic wildlife like polar bears, dolphins, and walruses.
- Lake Baikal: Located in Russia, Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world, measuring 1741 metres deep.
- Lake Superior: Lake Superior is the largest of five neighbouring lakes located in North America; it is bordered on two sides by Ontario and Minnesota.
- Mediterranean Sea: The Mediterranean Sea is bordered by Northern Africa, Asia, and Europe and has served as a foundational trade route throughout history.
- Nile River: The Nile River is world-famous since it is the longest river on earth. The Nile has been documented since Biblical times and has provided continuous water supply to Egypt for centuries.
- Yangtze River: The Yangtze River is the largest river in Asia and the third largest river on earth, measuring roughly 4000 miles long.
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