Swamp. Swamp. Swamp. Swamp. Mud, mud and mire…
Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? When film directors want to make things difficult for their characters, they sometimes choose a wetland to throw them into; think of Humphrey Bogart in the classic movie “African Queen,” where he struggles day after day to drag his boat through an impenetrable swamp.
Wetlands get a bad rap, but they are hugely important to us all.
Without them, things would be much more difficult on the old Planet Earth. Like big sponges, they store water from snow and rain and then let it out when things dry out. They provide rich habitats for plants and animals to live, and create “biodiversity” – the variety of life.
Ontario is a big place with a wide variety of wetlands throughout that landscape. That’s why, on World Wetlands Day, we want to celebrate with you and share the wealth of swamps, bogs, bogs and marshes we have in our parks.
Located at the mouth of the Mississagi River, Mississagi Delta Provincial Park is an estuarine swamp.
Mississagi Delta Provincial Park
The marshes have shallow waters and water levels fluctuate seasonally. Marshes are rich in nutrients and are often a refueling station for migratory birds and a nursery for small fish. This type of wetland supports great biodiversity.
Northern Striated Swamp in Chapleau-Nemegosenda River Provincial Park
Swamps are a type of wetland rich in oxygen and nutrients. Water flows in a swamp. Because water levels in marshes can rise and fall, greater species diversity is possible. Reeds and shrubs make up most of the plant life.
There are a wide variety of swamps, including the northern fluted swamps (shown above). He Canadian wetland classification system He says of the grooved swamps:
“These bogs have low, subparallel peat ridges (ridges) enclosing elongated wet hollows or shallow pools. The ridges or hollows are oriented perpendicular to the direction of surface flow. The thickness of the peat generally exceeds 2 m and is composed of moderately decomposed remains of reeds and mosses. Trees usually grow on ridges.”
palsa peat bogs
A palsa is a perennially frozen mound of peat and mineral soil, uplifted by frozen groundwater. The palsas rise at least one meter from the ground, in a convex shape.
Palsa Swamps of Polar Bear Provincial Park
An interesting fact: palsas can occur in swamps, as well as in swamps.
One of the dominant life forms is the reindeer lichen (which is what gives the white color to the photo above) which grows on top of the palsa swamps. In this photo, the swamps surround the palsas in the lower, wetter sections, showing as green areas between the palsas. Ponds form between the palsas.
Trees are rare in Polar Bear Provincial Park due to the frigid conditions, but some low shrubs can be seen growing among the lichens.
Lake Wakami Provincial Park (small Lake Wakami is in the upper left corner)
A swamp is a wetland that often contains trees. Swamps have fresh groundwater flowing through them and the trees that grow there are adapted to the wet conditions, but they still need plenty of nutrients. The swamp in this photo is a coniferous swamp, with many boreal species of trees and shrubs.
In Lake Wakami Provincial Park, the swamp encloses parabolic dunes, on which trees and shrubs can grow. While the swamp is a humid environment, dune forests are fire-powered ecosystems and need fire (e.g. caused by lightning) to regenerate. At the end of the ice age, water levels receded and sand was blown away by the wind, creating parabolic dunes (the wavy section near the center of the image above).
Larches (a species of conifer that sheds its needles every autumn) and dwarf birches (pictured below) are typical trees that grow here. These trees can survive with water flowing around their roots as long as the water has enough nutrients.
Larch and dwarf birch growing in Lake Wakami
Polar Bear Provincial Park Salt Marsh
Marshes develop along saltwater coasts in areas protected from waves and storms. The salt marshes are flooded by ocean tides, but are not destroyed by strong waves. They never drain completely and contain plants that have adapted to a mix of fresh and salt water.
The salt marshes of Polar Bear Provincial Park provide food and habitat for a large number of birds that migrate or nest in the park.
The photo below shows what a marsh looks like when a river extends through it as it flows towards the sea.
Marsh Braids in Polar Bear Provincial Park
Stag Lake Peatland in Mississagi Provincial Park
Due to its size, Stag Lake Peatland contains a variety of wetlands, including coniferous swamps, bogs, peat bogs and open marshes.
This diverse environment is home to elk feeding areas, cold-water streams filled with brook trout, sandhill crane nesting areas, and regionally rare plants.
Combinations of swamps, swamps and swamps
Misery Bay Provincial Park Wetland
This provincially significant wetland in Misery Bay Provincial Park is the largest wetland on Manitoulin Island.
The Misery Bay wetland includes components of swamps, swamps and peat bogs. It is a crucial habitat for many creatures, including these sandhill cranes.
Sandhill cranes performing their mating dance
If you have visited a provincial park, you have experienced the beauty of our province’s wetlands.
We hope this year you have time to paddle through swamps, stroll along a swampy boardwalk, and even get up close and personal with some swampy mud.