Swamp

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A freshwater swamp in Florida, the United States of America Florida freshwater swamp usgov image.jpg
A freshwater swamp in Florida, the United States of America

A swamp is a wetland that is forested. [1] Many swamps occur along large rivers where they are critically dependent upon natural water level fluctuations. [2] Other swamps occur on the shores of large lakes. [3] Some swamps have hammocks, or dry-land protrusions, covered by aquatic vegetation, or vegetation that tolerates periodic inundation [4] or soil saturation. The two main types of swamp are "true" or swamp forests and "transitional" or shrub swamps. In the boreal regions of Canada, the word swamp is colloquially used for what is more correctly termed a bog, fen, or muskeg. The water of a swamp may be fresh water, brackish water or seawater. Some of the world's largest swamps are found along major rivers such as the Amazon, the Mississippi, and the Congo. [5]

Wetland A land area that is permanently or seasonally saturated with water

A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is inundated by water, either permanently or seasonally, where oxygen-free processes prevail. The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other land forms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation of aquatic plants, adapted to the unique hydric soil. Wetlands play a number of functions, including water purification, water storage, processing of carbon and other nutrients, stabilization of shorelines, and support of plants and animals. Wetlands are also considered the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, serving as home to a wide range of plant and animal life. Whether any individual wetland performs these functions, and the degree to which it performs them, depends on characteristics of that wetland and the lands and waters near it. Methods for rapidly assessing these functions, wetland ecological health, and general wetland condition have been developed in many regions and have contributed to wetland conservation partly by raising public awareness of the functions and the ecosystem services some wetlands provide.

Hammock (ecology) Ecosystem in Southeastern United States consisting of stands of trees, usually hardwood, that form an ecological island within a contrasting ecosystem

Hammock is a term used in the southeastern United States for stands of trees, usually hardwood, that form an ecological island in a contrasting ecosystem. Hammocks grow on elevated areas, often just a few inches high, surrounded by wetlands that are too wet to support them. The term hammock is also applied to stands of hardwood trees growing on slopes between wetlands and drier uplands supporting a mixed or coniferous forest. Types of hammocks found in the United States include tropical hardwood hammocks, temperate hardwood hammocks, and maritime or coastal hammocks. Hammocks are also often classified as hydric, mesic or xeric. The types are not exclusive, but often grade into each other.

Freshwater swamp forest forest growing on an alluvial zone

Freshwater swamp forests, or flooded forests, are forests which are inundated with freshwater, either permanently or seasonally. They normally occur along the lower reaches of rivers and around freshwater lakes. Freshwater swamp forests are found in a range of climate zones, from boreal through temperate and subtropical to tropical.

Contents

Differences between marshes and swamps

Difference between swamp and marsh USGS image cropped.jpg
Difference between swamp and marsh

A marsh is a wetland composed mainly of grasses and reeds found near the fringes of lakes and streams, serving as a transitional area between land and aquatic ecosystems. A swamp is a wetland composed of trees and shrubs found along large rivers and lake shores. [6]

Marsh A wetland that is dominated by herbaceous rather than woody plant species

A marsh is a wetland that is dominated by herbaceous rather than woody plant species. Marshes can often be found at the edges of lakes and streams, where they form a transition between the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. They are often dominated by grasses, rushes or reeds. If woody plants are present they tend to be low-growing shrubs. This form of vegetation is what differentiates marshes from other types of wetland such as swamps, which are dominated by trees, and mires, which are wetlands that have accumulated deposits of acidic peat.

Geomorphology and hydrology

Swamps are characterized by slow-moving to stagnant waters. Many adjoin rivers or lakes. Swamps are features of areas with very low topographic relief.

River Natural flowing watercourse

A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reaching another body of water. Small rivers can be referred to using names such as stream, creek, brook, rivulet, and rill. There are no official definitions for the generic term river as applied to geographic features, although in some countries or communities a stream is defined by its size. Many names for small rivers are specific to geographic location; examples are "run" in some parts of the United States, "burn" in Scotland and northeast England, and "beck" in northern England. Sometimes a river is defined as being larger than a creek, but not always: the language is vague.

Lake A body of relatively still water, in a basin surrounded by land

A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a basin, surrounded by land, apart from any river or other outlet that serves to feed or drain the lake. Lakes lie on land and are not part of the ocean, and therefore are distinct from lagoons, and are also larger and deeper than ponds, though there are no official or scientific definitions. Lakes can be contrasted with rivers or streams, which are usually flowing. Most lakes are fed and drained by rivers and streams.

Draining

Historically, humans have drained swamps to provide additional land for agriculture and to reduce the threat of diseases borne by swamp insects and similar animals.[ clarification needed ] [7] Many swamps have also undergone intensive logging, requiring the construction of drainage ditches and canals. These ditches and canals contributed to drainage and, along the coast, allowed salt water to intrude, converting swamps to marsh or even to open water. [1] Large areas of swamp were therefore lost or degraded. Louisiana provides a classic example of wetland loss from these combined factors. [8] Europe has probably lost nearly half its wetlands. [7] New Zealand lost 90 percent of its wetlands over a period of 150 years. [9] Ecologists recognise that swamps provide valuable ecological services including flood control, fish production, water purification, carbon storage, and wildlife habitat. [10] In many parts of the world authorities protect swamps. In parts of Europe and North America, swamp restoration projects are becoming widespread. [2] [11] Often the simplest steps to restoring swamps involve plugging drainage ditches and removing levees. [12]

Agriculture Cultivation of plants and animals to provide useful products

Agriculture is the science and art of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that enabled people to live in cities. The history of agriculture began thousands of years ago. After gathering wild grains beginning at least 105,000 years ago, nascent farmers began to plant them around 11,500 years ago. Pigs, sheep and cattle were domesticated over 10,000 years ago. Plants were independently cultivated in at least 11 regions of the world. Industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture in the twentieth century came to dominate agricultural output, though about 2 billion people still depended on subsistence agriculture into the twenty-first.

Louisiana U.S. state in the United States

Louisiana is a state in the Deep South region of the South Central United States. It is the 31st most extensive and the 25th most populous of the 50 United States. Louisiana is bordered by the state of Texas to the west, Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. A large part of its eastern boundary is demarcated by the Mississippi River. Louisiana is the only U.S. state with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are equivalent to counties. The state's capital is Baton Rouge, and its largest city is New Orleans.

Land value, productivity and conservation

Swamps and other wetlands have traditionally held a very low property value compared to fields, prairies, or woodlands. They have a reputation for being unproductive land that cannot easily be utilized for human activities, other than perhaps hunting and trapping. Farmers, for example, typically drained swamps next to their fields so as to gain more land usable for planting crops.

Prairie ecosystems considered part of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome

Prairies are ecosystems considered part of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome by ecologists, based on similar temperate climates, moderate rainfall, and a composition of grasses, herbs, and shrubs, rather than trees, as the dominant vegetation type. Temperate grassland regions include the Pampas of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, and the steppe of Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan. Lands typically referred to as "prairie" tend to be in North America. The term encompasses the area referred to as the Interior Lowlands of Canada, the United States, and Mexico, which includes all of the Great Plains as well as the wetter, hillier land to the east.

Woodland low-density forest forming open habitats with plenty of sunlight and limited shade

A woodland or wood is a low-density forest forming open habitats with plenty of sunlight and limited shade. Woodlands may support an understory of shrubs and herbaceous plants including grasses. Woodland may form a transition to shrubland under drier conditions or during early stages of primary or secondary succession. Higher density areas of trees with a largely closed canopy that provides extensive and nearly continuous shade are referred to as forests.

Hunting Searching, pursuing, catching and killing wild animals

Hunting is a practice in which a certain type of animal is killed in a certain way: the animal must be wild, it must be able to flee, the killing requires violence, and that violence must be premeditated . The violence must also be at the hunter's initiative. Hunting wildlife or feral animals is most commonly done by humans for food, recreation, to remove predators that can be dangerous to humans or domestic animals, or for trade. Lawful hunting is distinguished from poaching, which is the illegal killing, trapping or capture of the hunted species. The species that are hunted are referred to as game or prey and are usually mammals and birds.

Many societies now realize that swamps are critically important to providing fresh water and oxygen to all life, and that they are often breeding grounds for a wide variety of species. Indeed, floodplain swamps are extremely important in fish production. [13] Government environmental agencies (such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency) are taking steps to protect and preserve swamps and other wetlands. In Europe, major effort is being invested in the restoration of swamp forests along rivers. [2] Conservationists work to preserve swamps such as those in northwest Indiana in the United States Midwest that were preserved as part of the Indiana Dunes. [14] [15] [16] The problem of invasive species has also been put into greater light such as in places like the Everglades.

Fresh water Naturally occurring water with low amounts of dissolved salts

Fresh water is any naturally occurring water except seawater and brackish water. Fresh water includes water in ice sheets, ice caps, glaciers, icebergs, bogs, ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, and even underground water called groundwater. Fresh water is generally characterized by having low concentrations of dissolved salts and other total dissolved solids. Though the term specifically excludes seawater and brackish water, it does include mineral-rich waters such as chalybeate springs.

Oxygen Chemical element with atomic number 8

Oxygen is the chemical element with the symbol O and atomic number 8, meaning its nucleus has 8 protons. The number of neutrons varies according to the isotope: the stable isotopes have 8, 9, or 10 neutrons. Oxygen is a member of the chalcogen group on the periodic table, a highly reactive nonmetal, and an oxidizing agent that readily forms oxides with most elements as well as with other compounds. By mass, oxygen is the third-most abundant element in the universe, after hydrogen and helium. At standard temperature and pressure, two atoms of the element bind to form dioxygen, a colorless and odorless diatomic gas with the formula O
2
. Diatomic oxygen gas constitutes 20.8% of the Earth's atmosphere. As compounds including oxides, the element makes up almost half of the Earth's crust.

United States Environmental Protection Agency Agency of the U.S. Federal Government

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is an independent agency of the United States federal government for environmental protection. President Richard Nixon proposed the establishment of EPA on July 9, 1970 and it began operation on December 2, 1970, after Nixon signed an executive order. The order establishing the EPA was ratified by committee hearings in the House and Senate. The agency is led by its Administrator, who is appointed by the President and approved by Congress. The current Administrator is former Deputy Administrator Andrew R. Wheeler, who had been acting administrator since July 2018. The EPA is not a Cabinet department, but the Administrator is normally given cabinet rank.

Notable examples

Swamps can be found on all continents except Antarctica. [17]

The largest swamp in the world is the Amazon River floodplain, which is particularly significant for its large number of fish and tree species. [18] [19] [20]

Africa

The Sudd and the Okavango Delta [21] [22] [23] are Africa's best known marshland areas. The Bangweulu Floodplains make up Africa's largest swamp.

Asia

The Tigris-Euphrates river system [24] is a large swamp and river system in southern Iraq, traditionally inhabited in part by the Marsh Arabs.

In Asia, tropical peat swamps are located in mainland East Asia and Southeast Asia. In Southeast Asia, peatlands are mainly found in low altitude coastal and sub-coastal areas and extend inland for distance more than 100 km (62 mi) along river valleys and across watersheds. They are mostly to be found on the coasts of East Sumatra, Kalimantan (Central, East, South and West Kalimantan provinces), West Papua, Papua New Guinea, Brunei, Peninsular Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak, Southeast Thailand, and the Philippines (Riley et al.,1996). Indonesia has the largest area of tropical peatland. Of the total 440,000 km2 (170,000 sq mi) tropical peat swamp, about 210,000 km2 (81,000 sq mi) are located in Indonesia (Page, 2001; Wahyunto, 2006).

The Vasyugan Swamp is a large swamp in the western Siberia area of the Russian Federation. This is one of the largest swamps in the world, covering an area larger than Switzerland.

North America

Swamp in southern Louisiana Cypresses.jpg
Swamp in southern Louisiana

The Atchafalaya Swamp at the lower end of the Mississippi River is the largest swamp in the United States. It is an important example of southern cypress swamp [25] but it has been greatly altered by logging, drainage and levee construction. [26] Other famous swamps in the United States are the forested portions of the Everglades, Okefenokee Swamp, Barley Barber Swamp, Great Cypress Swamp and the Great Dismal Swamp. The Okefenokee is located in extreme southeastern Georgia and extends slightly into northeastern Florida. The Great Cypress Swamp is mostly in Delaware but extends into Maryland on the Delmarva Peninsula. Point Lookout State Park on the southern tip of Maryland contains a large amount of swamps and marshes. The Great Dismal Swamp lies in extreme southeastern Virginia and extreme northeastern North Carolina. Both are National Wildlife Refuges. Another swamp area, Reelfoot Lake of extreme western Tennessee and Kentucky, was created by the 1811–12 New Madrid earthquakes. Caddo Lake, the Great Dismal and Reelfoot are swamps that are centered at large lakes. Swamps are often called bayous in the southeastern United States, especially in the Gulf Coast region.

List of major swamps

A small swamp in Padstow, New South Wales, Australia Saltpancrk12.jpg
A small swamp in Padstow, New South Wales, Australia
Inside a mangrove canopy, Salt Pan Creek, New South Wales Saltpancrk1a.jpg
Inside a mangrove canopy, Salt Pan Creek, New South Wales

The world's largest wetlands include significant areas of swamp, such as in the Amazon and Congo River basins. [20] Further north, however, the largest wetlands are bogs.

Africa

Asia

Europe

A black alder swamp in Germany Briesetal bei Briese.JPG
A black alder swamp in Germany

North America

South America

See also

Related Research Articles

Ottawa River river flowing draining Abitibi-Témiscamingue, then flowing between Ontario and Quebec, in Canada

The Ottawa River is a river in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. It is named in honour of the Algonquin word 'to trade', as it was the major trade route of Eastern Canada at the time. For most of its length, it defines the border between these two provinces. It is a major tributary of the St. Lawrence River and the longest river in Quebec.

Fen type of wetland

A fen is one of the main types of wetland, the others being grassy marshes, forested swamps, and peaty bogs. Along with bogs, fens are a kind of mire. Fens are minerotrophic peatlands, usually fed by mineral-rich surface water or groundwater. They are characterised by their distinct water chemistry, which is pH neutral or alkaline, with relatively high dissolved mineral levels but few other plant nutrients. They are usually dominated by grasses and sedges, and typically have brown mosses. Fens frequently have a high diversity of other plant species including carnivorous plants such as Pinguicula. They may also occur along large lakes and rivers where seasonal changes in water level maintain wet soils with few woody plants. The distribution of individual species of fen plants is often closely connected to water regimes and nutrient concentrations.

Lake Pontchartrain estuary located in southeastern Louisiana, United States

Lake Pontchartrain is a brackish estuary located in southeastern Louisiana in the United States. It covers an area of 630 square miles (1,600 km2) with an average depth of 12 to 14 feet. Some shipping channels are kept deeper through dredging. It is roughly oval in shape, about 40 miles (64 km) from west to east and 24 miles (39 km) from south to north.

Pearl River (Mississippi–Louisiana) river in the U.S. states of Mississippi and Louisiana

The Pearl River is a river in the U.S. states of Mississippi and Louisiana. It forms in Neshoba County, Mississippi from the confluence of Nanih Waiya and Tallahaga creeks. and has a meander length of 444 miles (715 km). The lower part of the river forms part of the boundary between Mississippi and Louisiana. The river contains large areas of bottomland hardwood swamp and cypress swamp, providing habitat for many species of wildlife including sturgeon and black bears. As recently as 2008, endangered Ivory-billed woodpeckers were reportedly sighted here. The mouth of the river provides important marsh habitat along salinity gradients; these marshes have been the subject of many scientific studies. It is considered to be one of the most critical areas of natural habitat remaining in Louisiana. The Mississippi state capital, Jackson, is located on the river.

Mississippi River (Ontario) tributary of the Ottawa River in Ontario, Canada

The Mississippi River is a tributary of the Ottawa River in Eastern Ontario, Canada. It is 200 kilometres (120 mi) in length from its source at Mackavoy Lake, has a drainage area of 4,450 square kilometres (1,720 sq mi), and has a mean discharge of 40 cubic metres per second (1,400 cu ft/s). There are more than 250 lakes in the watershed.

Littoral zone Part of a sea, lake or river that is close to the shore

The littoral zone or nearshore is the part of a sea, lake, or river that is close to the shore. In coastal environments, the littoral zone extends from the high water mark, which is rarely inundated, to shoreline areas that are permanently submerged. The littoral zone always includes this intertidal zone, and the terms are often used interchangeably. However, the meaning of littoral zone can extend well beyond the intertidal zone.

Drummond/North Elmsley Township in Ontario, Canada

Drummond/North Elmsley is a township in eastern Ontario, Canada in Lanark County. It is situated on the north shore of the Rideau River between the town of Perth and the town of Smiths Falls. It is a predominantly rural municipality. The township offices are located in the hamlet of Port Elmsley.

Wetlands of Louisiana

The wetlands of Louisiana are water-saturated coastal and swamp regions of southern Louisiana.

Atchafalaya Basin largest wetland and swamp in the United States

The Atchafalaya Basin, or Atchafalaya Swamp, is the largest wetland and swamp in the United States. Located in south central Louisiana, it is a combination of wetlands and river delta area where the Atchafalaya River and the Gulf of Mexico converge. The river stretches from near Simmesport in the north through parts of eight parishes to the Morgan City southern area.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is a 402,000‑acre (1,627 km2) National Wildlife Refuge located in Charlton, Ware, and Clinch Counties of Georgia, and Baker County in Florida, United States. The refuge is administered from offices in Folkston, Georgia. The refuge was established in 1937 to protect a majority of the 438,000 acre (1,772 km2) Okefenokee Swamp. The name "Okefenokee" is a Native American word meaning "trembling earth."

Wet meadow type of wetland

A wet meadow is a type of wetland with soils that are saturated for part or all of the growing season. Debate exists whether a wet meadow is a type of marsh or a completely separate type of wetland. Wet prairies and wet savannas are hydrologically similar. Wet meadows may occur because of restricted drainage or the receipt of large amounts of water from rain or melted snow. They may also occur in riparian zones and around the shores of large lakes.

Matchedash Bay is a bay and Ramsar wetland in Simcoe County in Central Ontario, Canada. It is the "final inland extension of Severn Sound" on Lake Huron's Georgian Bay, and is "situated at the interface between the Saint Lawrence Lowlands and the Canadian Shield ". It exhibits geologically unique features at the junction of the Canadian Shield and southern Ontario limestone. Wetland habitats in Matchedash Bay are varied, and include swamps, fens, cattail marshes, wet meadows and beaver ponds. Other features include "permanent freshwater lakes; upland hardwood forest, agricultural lands, native grass meadows and a unique, coniferous wetland forest".

The Zambezian flooded grasslands is an ecoregion of southern and eastern Africa that is rich in wildlife.

A U.S. federal law, the Swamp Land Act of 1850 essentially provided a mechanism for reverting title of federally-owned swampland to states which would agree to drain the land and turn it to productive, agricultural use. Primarily aimed at the development of Florida's Everglades, and transferring some 20 million acres of land in the Everglades to the State of Florida for this purpose, the law also had application outside Florida, and spurred drainage and development in many areas of the United States, including areas around Indiana's Kankakee River, Michigan's Lake St. Clair's shores, and elsewhere, and encouraged settlement by immigrants arriving in the United States after that time. Later considered to have been ecologically problematic, many of its provisions were in time reversed by the Wetland Protection Act of 1972 and later legislation, but its historical effects on U.S. development and settlement patterns remained.

Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge

The Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge is located about 30 miles (48 km) west of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and one mile (1.6 km) east of Krotz Springs, Louisiana, lies just east of the Atchafalaya River. In 1988 under the administration of Governor Foster the "Atchafalaya Basin Master Plan" was implemented that combined the 11,780-acre (4,770 ha) Sherburne Wildlife Management Area (WMA), the 15,220-acre (6,160 ha) Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge, and the 17,000-acre (6,900 ha) U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Bayou Des Ourses into the Sherburne Complex Wildlife Management Area.

Pond A relatively small body of standing water

A pond is an area filled with water, either natural or artificial, that is smaller than a lake. It may arise naturally in floodplains as part of a river system, or be a somewhat isolated depression. It may contain shallow water with marsh and aquatic plants and animals.

Mississippi Alluvial Plain (ecoregion)

The Mississippi Alluvial Plain is a Level III ecoregion designated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in seven U.S. states, though predominantly in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. It parallels the Mississippi River from the Midwestern United States to the Gulf of Mexico.

Coastal Erosion in Louisiana is the process of steady depletion of wetlands along the state's coastline in marshes, swamps, and barrier islands, particularly affecting the alluvial basin surrounding the mouth of the Mississippi River at the foot of the Gulf of Mexico on the Eastern half of the state's coast. In the last century, Southeast Louisiana has lost a large portion of its wetlands and is expected to lose more in the coming years, with some estimates claiming wetland losses equivalent to up to 1 football field per hour. One consequence of coastal erosion is an increased vulnerability to hurricane storm surges, which affects the New Orleans metropolitan area and other communities in the region. The state has outlined a comprehensive master plan for coastal restoration and has begun to implement various restoration projects such as fresh water diversions, but certain zones will have to be prioritized and targeted for restoration efforts, as it is unlikely that all depleted wetlands can be rehabilitated.

References

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