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Featured Article: Wetland

A subtropical wetland in Florida, USA, with an endangered American crocodile.
A wetland is a transitional environment between permanently aquatic and terrestrial environments that shares characteristics of both environments and where water, which covers the soil or is near the surface for substantial parts of the year, is the key factor in determining the nature of the ecosystem and soil. Although wetlands have aspects similar to both wet and and dry environments, they cannot be classified unambiguously as either aquatic or terrestrial. They are found on every continent except Antarctica and from the tundra to the tropics. The great variety of wetland types and the difficulty in defining their boundaries makes establishment of a precise definition difficult and controversial.

Wetlands provide innumerable economic, ecological, cultural, recreational, and aesthetic values. The rich biodiversity of wetlands has led to their being described as "biological supermarkets" and "nurseries of life"; their chemical and hydrological functions have led to their characterization as "the kidneys of the landscape." Despite these many values, the historical view of wetlands was that they were "wastelands." Such a perspective found value in draining, diking, and otherwise modifying them in order that the lands serve intensive agricultural, residential, or industrial uses. It is estimated that 50 percent of the world's original wetlands have been lost.

Popular Article: NATO

NATO Summit in Prague, 2002
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); French: Organisation du Traité de l'Atlantique Nord (OTAN); is a military alliance established by the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty on 4 April 1949. Headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, the organization constitutes a system of collective defense in which its member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party.

For its first few years, NATO was not much more than a political association. The primary goal of the organization was to act as a defense against Communist expansion. The Korean War galvanized the member states, and an integrated military structure was built up under the direction of two U.S. supreme commanders. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the organization became drawn into the Balkans while building better links with former potential enemies to the east, which culminated with the former Warsaw Pact states joining the alliance. Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, NATO has attempted to refocus itself to new challenges and deployed troops to Afghanistan and trainers to Iraq.