Swamps are one of the few last frontiers of exploration for many people. They can be difficult to traverse and home to many creatures that many would rather avoid. Swamps are also one of the most important ecosystems on the planet.
1. Power Me Up
Swamps are actually the foundation that is required for coal development. Swamps from millions of years ago are responsible for the coal that we all use today for power, heat, and other electrical needs. The plants that die will settle in layers at the bottom of a swamp, but instead of decaying since the bottom of a swamp has no oxygen, it becomes subjected to pressure. Over time that pressure creates coal, a substance found on every continent.
2. An Interesting Transition
Swamps aren’t really 100% water, but they aren’t 100% land either. They exist in a state of transition where they’re a little bit of both. Because there is so much water available in the ecosystem, it isn’t uncommon to see a swamp filled with densely packed trees. The type of tree that grows in a swamp is actually how most swamps are named.
3. A Salty Personality
Coastal swamps tend to be what is called a “saltwater” swamp. Those that are further inland tend to be a freshwater swamp. Both, however, can be found along coasts or inland. They can vary in size, with some being no bigger than the size of a home in the middle of a prairie. Others are very large and encompass hundreds of square miles.
4. Fertile to the Core
There are a grouping of swamps that exist in the Middle East which are called the Fertile Crescent. This is because these freshwater swamps are so filled with different types of animals and plant life that no other region can compare to it. Many scientists believe that the Fertile Crescent is one of the places where modern life was created. It is home to the world’s first recognized cities and the earliest recorded written language has been found here.
5. Can a Swamp Be a River?
The Everglades are one of the most popular swamp areas in the United States, but what makes this freshwater swamp unique is the fact that it’s more of a river than a stable swamp. This wide and slow-moving body of water starts at the Kissimmee River and flows down to the Straits of Florida. Just like other swamps, even though the water is moving through the Everglades, it isn’t actually causing erosion while this is happening. Wetlands promote water-tolerant plant growth, which stabilizes the ground and keeps the environment stable.
Some plants, like cypress trees, grow massive roots to help with soil stabilization. Some of them can be upwards of 4 feet tall. When they are seen sticking out of the water in a swamp, they’re often referred to as “cypress knees.”
6. Destroyer of Worlds
For many years in the United States, it was considered an accepted practice to drain swamps in order to reclaim the land. Nearly 50% of the total swampland in the US was destroyed before protections were enacted in the 1970s to save this environment. This was seen quite a bit in the region of the Everglades, where much of the land today is being used for sugarcane growth. Other areas that were drained, such as those around San Francisco, became expensive real estate.
7. Bite Me Later
Insects that require still waters for breeding don’t generally like swamps. That’s because even in most inland swamps, there is at least some consistent water movement that is happening. Although there may be mosquitoes in a swamp, it is because of standing water that occurs outside of the foundational water that has created the wetlands. You’ll want to bring along your insect repellent, but at least most mosquitoes should be staying away.
8. Which Organ Are They?
If a swamp had to be compared to a human organ, it would most often be compared to the kidney. That’s because swamps are excellent filtration systems for the local water supply. It might not seem like it at first glimpse, but the wetlands do an excellent job of filtering the water, removing its impurities and potentially dangerous substances, to leave a fresh supply. Swamps won’t desalinate saltwater, but that’s about the only thing they can’t do.
9. It’s a Soupy Kind of Feeling
In the southern United States, there is a popular dish called Gumbo. It’s traditionally made from items that would be found within the ecosystem of a swamp. Wild rice, crawfish, okra, and bay leaves are all standard components. Sassafras has also been included in some recipes. If one was brave enough, a gator could even be hunted and added to the dish. Since hunting alligator is rather dangerous, however, most folks just opted to add a chicken from their farm to the pot.
10. Just Bring in the Sponges
What makes swamps so unique is that the land within the ecosystem is so drenched with water all of the time that it acts like a sponge. This means it can absorb a lot of water which regular land is unable to absorb, thereby controlling the flooding when it occurs in the region. Once swamps are dried up, however, the ground loses this elasticity and it becomes more like a desert than it does a swamp. That exact effect was seen in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
11. A Bad Feeling
Many people avoid visiting a swamp even today because of its reputation. Swamps are often thought of as smelly, dangerous places that are not designed for humans to traverse. While it is true that there can be some dangerous animals in a swamp, such as the alligator or the water moccasin, sometimes called the Cottonmouth, most swamps are safe and highly beneficial. It’s because of that bad feeling that many have about this ecosystem that has caused so many of them to be destroyed.
12. Not So Tall
Some swamps aren’t dominated by trees at all. These swamps, referred to as shrub swamps, have several different bushes and small growth “trees” that dominate the region. It is not uncommon for shrub swamps to be next-door neighbors to the traditional tree-dominated swamp. A good example of a shrub swamp would be the mangroves down in southern Florida. A few feet of standing water throughout much of the year is common in this type of swamp.
Swamps are one of the most amazing and diverse ecosystems on the planet today. Their existence is critical to the lives of many endangered creatures. Instead of being feared, swamps should be celebrated for the amazing amount of diversity and filtration they are able to provide.