A swamp is a forested
wetland. Swamps are considered to be transition zones because both land and water play a role in creating this environment. Swamps vary in size and are located all around the world. The water of a swamp may be
brackish water, or
seawater. Freshwater swamps form along large rivers or lakes where they are critically dependent upon rainwater and seasonal flooding to maintain natural water level fluctuations.Saltwater swamps are found along tropical and subtropical coastlines. Some swamps have
hammocks, or dry-land protrusions, covered by
aquatic vegetation, or vegetation that tolerates periodic inundation 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 formally termed a
muskeg. Some of the world's largest swamps are found along major rivers such as the
Mississippi, and the
Differences between marshes and swamps
Difference between swamp and marsh
marshes are specific types of wetlands that form along waterbodies containing rich,
hydric soils. Marshes are wetlands, continually or frequently flooded by nearby running bodies of water, that are dominated by emergent soft-stem vegetation and herbaceous plants. Swamps are wetlands consisting of saturated soils or standing water and are dominated by water-tolerant woody vegetation such as shrubs, bushes, and trees.
Swamps are characterized by their saturated soils and slow-moving waters. The water that accumulates in swamps comes from a variety of sources including precipitation, groundwater, tides and/or freshwater flooding. These hydrologic pathways all contribute to how energy and nutrients flow in and out of the ecosystem. As water flows through the swamp, nutrients, sediment and pollutants are naturally filtered out. Chemicals like phosphorus and nitrogen that end up in waterways get absorbed and used by the aquatic plants within the swamp, purifying the water. Any remaining or excess chemicals present will accumulate at the bottom of the swamp, being removed from the water and buried within the sediment. The biogeochemical environment of a swamp is dependent on its hydrology, affecting the levels and availability of resources like oxygen, nutrients, water pH and toxicity, which will influence the whole ecosystem.
Swamps and other
wetlands have traditionally held a very low
property value compared to fields,
woodlands. They have a reputation for being unproductive land that cannot easily be utilized for human activities, other than
trapping, or fishing. Farmers, for example, typically drained swamps next to their fields so as to gain more land usable for planting crops, both historically, and to a lesser extent, presently. On the other hand, swamps can (and do) play a beneficial ecological role in the overall functions of the natural environment and provide a variety of resources that many species depend on. Swamps and other wetlands have shown to be a natural form of flood management and defense against flooding. In such circumstances where flooding does occur, swamps absorb and use the excess water within the wetland, preventing it from traveling and flooding surrounding areas. Dense vegetation within the swamp also provides soil stability to the land, holding soils and sediment in place whilst preventing erosion and land loss. Swamps are an abundant and valuable source of
fresh water and
oxygen for all life, and they are often breeding grounds for a wide variety of species. Floodplain swamps are an important resource in the production and distribution of fish. Two thirds of global fish and shellfish are commercially harvested and dependent on wetlands.
Impacts and conservation
Historically, humans have been known to drain and/or fill swamps and other wetlands in order to create more space for human development and to reduce the threat of diseases borne by swamp insects. Wetlands are removed and replaced with land that is then used for things like agriculture, real estate, and recreational uses. Many swamps have also undergone intensive logging and farming, 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. Large areas of swamp were therefore lost or degraded.
Louisiana provides a classic example of wetland loss from these combined factors. Europe has probably lost nearly half its wetlands. New Zealand lost 90 percent of its wetlands over a period of 150 years. Ecologists recognize that swamps provide ecological services including flood control, fish production, water purification, carbon storage, and wildlife habitats. In many parts of the world authorities protect swamps. In parts of Europe and North America, swamp restoration projects are becoming widespread. The United States government began enforcing stricter laws and management programs in the 1970s in efforts to protect and restore these ecosystems. Often the simplest steps to restoring swamps involve plugging drainage ditches and removing
Conservationists work to preserve swamps such as those in northwest Indiana in the United States
Midwest that were preserved as part of the
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).
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