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Swamps

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Swamps

"Swampland" redirects here. For the scientific concept, see Swampland (physics).
This article is about the landform. For other uses, see Swamp (disambiguation).


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 periodical inundation.[4] 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 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]

Conservationists have worked hard to preserve swamps. For example, the swamps in Northwest Indiana have been preserved as part of the Indiana Dunes.[6][7][8]

Geology

Swamps are characterized by very slow-moving waters. They are usually associated with adjacent rivers or lakes. In some cases, rivers become swamps for a distance. Swamps are features of areas with very low topographic relief.

Draining

Swamps were historically drained to provide additional land for agriculture, and to reduce the threat of diseases borne by swamp insects and similar animals.[9] Many swamps were also heavily logged, which also required construction of drainage ditches and canals. These contributed as well to drainage, and, along the coast, allowed salt water intrusion that converted swamps to marsh or open water.[1] Large areas of swamp were therefore lost, or degraded. Louisiana provides a classic example of wetland loss from these combined factors.[10] Europe has probably lost nearly half its wetlands.[9] As another example, New Zealand has lost 90 percent of its wetlands over the past 150 years.[11] It is now appreciated that swamps provide valuable ecological services including flood control, fish production, water purification, carbon storage, and wildlife habitat.[12] In many parts of the world swamps are protected. In parts of Europe and North America, swamp restoration is becoming widespread.[2][13] Often the simplest steps to restoring swamps are to plug drainage ditches and remove levees.[14]

Famous examples

Swamps can be found on all continents except Antarctica.[15]

The largest swamp in the world is the Amazon River floodplain, which is particularly significant for its large number of fish and tree species.[16][17][18]

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Africa

The Sudd and the Okavango Delta are Africa's best known marshland areas.

Asia

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

Tropical peat swamps in Asia are located in mainland East Asia and Southeast Asia. In Southeast Asia, peatlands are mainly found in low altitude coastal and sub-coastal situations and extend inland for distance more than 100 km along the river valley 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 tropical peat swamp, about 210,000 km2 are located in Indonesia (Page, 2001; Wahyunto, 2006).

Europe

The Pripyat Swamps in Belarus and Ukraine divided the central and southern theatres of operation during World War II, and served as a hideout for Soviet and Polish partisans. In the summer of 1941, the SS Cavalry Brigade commanded by Hermann Fegelein during the course of "anti-partisan" operations in the Pripyat Swamps killed nearly 18,000 people.

North America

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[19] but it has been greatly altered by logging, drainage and levee construction.[20] 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 New Madrid earthquake of 1812. 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.

Land value and productivity

Swamps and other wetlands have traditionally held a very low property value compared to fields, prairies, or woodlands. They have a reputation as being unproductive land that can't be easily 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.

Societies now generally understand that swamps are critically important in the processes of providing fresh water and oxygen to all life, and are often breeding grounds for a wide variety of life. Indeed, floodplain swamps are extremely important in fish production.[21] Government environmental agencies (such as the Department of Natural Resources in the United States) 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]

List of major swamps


The world's largest wetlands include significant areas of swamp, such as in the Amazon and Congo River basins.[18] Further north, however, the largest wetlands are bogs.

Africa

Asia

Europe

North America

South America

See also

References

External links

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