1. What even is a swamp?
A swamp is a wetland ecosystem – which means it’s a place that’s halfway between being water and land. In fact, swamps aren’t land or water! They’re swamps!
2. There are lots of swamps
There are swamps on every continent except Antarctica! There are cold swamps, hot swamps, freshwater swamps and salty swamps. Swamps make up about 8% of the world’s landmass, and wherever they are they’re full of all kinds of life – from insects and fish to snakes and herons.
3. There are some strange things in swamps
Because of all the water, it’s hard for plants to get what they need from the soil. So, some plants have evolved to eat meat. There’s venus flytraps that catch and eat insects – or there’s the amazingly named swollen bladderwort that sucks insects into it’s plant stomach. There’s even a type of pitcher plant that survives by digesting insects and shrew droppings!
4. The Spooky Siberian Swamp
The largest swamp in the northen half of world is the Great Vasyugan Mire. It’s over 20,000 square miles (that’s bigger than Switzerland!) and it’s slap bang in the middle of Russia. It’s an amazing place for wildlife as almost no humans live there! Scientists think it’s about 10,000 years old – and has been slowly growing this whole time. How big will it get? Nobody knows!
5. The biggest swamp in the world
As massive as it is, the Great Vasuyan Mire isn’t even the biggest swamp in the world. There’s an even bigger one in South America. The Pantanal region covers parts of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, and is so big that if you overlaid it on a map of Europe it would cover 9 countries! At 44,000 square miles it’s over twice the size of that giant Russian swamp!
6. Spanish Moss
…Is a green stringy plant that hangs from trees in some swampy places, like Louisiana, USA. The funny thing about Spanish Moss is that it’s neither Spanish nor Moss – it’s actually a member of the Pineapple family! Spanish Moss was briefly used to stuff car seats in the USA, but they were very unpopular as they were usually full of fleas and mites. Blurgh.
Alligators are a common sight in the warm, swampy parts of the USA. They’re top predators but don’t have a reputation for being particularly clever. This is unfair though, because scientists have watched them use tools to catch birds. Alligators (and crocodiles) balance sticks on their heads to trick birds into landing on them. The birds want the sticks to build their nests, but get eaten instead. Uh oh. This is one of the only examples of reptiles using tools anywhere!
8. Swamps are good for you
Swamps are unique places. Because they’re in between land and sea, they’re great at protecting land from big storms. It’s like a natural spongey barrier separating land from hurricanes. If it wasn’t for swamps, lots of coastal areas would just get washed away into the sea. So thanks, swamps!
9. Swamp monsters
Swamps are spooky places. So it’s no surprise there are plenty of scary folk stories about monsters that live in swamps around the world. Aboriginal Australians tell stories of the bunyip – a kind of evil seal thing that eats women and children. Or the Grootslang, a giant elephant-sized serpent said to live in the swamps of South Africa. There’s even the Skunk Ape – a disgusting smelling ape creature from Florida. They probably don’t exist. But then again, who knows?
10. Swamps are great for the environment!
Swamps only make up about 3% of Earth’s landmass, but store a third of our trapped carbon! This means healthy swamps can help limit climate change. So if you want to save the world, you have to save the swampy bits too!