Wetlands are an important ecosystem that are permanently or seasonally dominated by water. The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other bodies of water is the characteristic presence of aquatic plants adapted to the unique environment. Wetlands play an important role in the environment, including water purification, water storage, processing of carbon and other nutrients and stabilization of shorelines. Wetlands are also home to a wide variety of plant and animal life. This lone tree with its fall foliage was photographed by a wetland at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge near Los Banos in Merced County, California.