Home » Regions » North America » Eastern Temperate Forests » Mississippi Alluvial & Southeast USA Coastal Plains » Middle Atlantic Coastal Plain » Swamps and Peatlands

Swamps and Peatlands

Page contents

About the Swamps and Peatlands

The Swamps and Peatlands are a collection of forested wetlands in several discontinuous pieces beginning in southern Virginia, but mostly located in North Carolina.

This area is nearly completely flat and underlain by impermeable clays; both the substrate and topography impede drainage. On top of this are thick peat deposits formed by the ecosystem itself. Elevations tend to range from 15 to 20 feet.

Soils form primarily from organic matter, under saturated or poorly-drained conditions, and tend to be highly acidic. The acidity permeates through bodies of water, making the waterways here poorly-suited to fish, with some pools so acidic there are no fish.

The original vegetation here is not fully known, but has been classified as Southern Floodplain Forest. Dominant trees probably included tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) and water tupelo (Nyssa aquatica), bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), red maple (Acer rubrum), and several oak species adapted to wet conditions. Nowadays, organic soils are dominated by red maple and tupelo. Areas with mineral soils have greater species richness.

This region is almost uninhabited and much of it is sparsely utilized by humans. Cities and towns are located near, but outside this region. There is a small amount of agriculture on drier ground around the margins of this region, with some areas having been drained for this purpose. There has also been some mining of the rich peat deposits, although much such mining is carried out outside this region. This area is also utilized for hunting. Large portions of this region are preserved in wildlife refuges, including the Great Dismal Swamp and Alligator River National Wildlife Refuges, and the Croatan National Forest, which includes part of this region as well as the surrounding flatwoods. Other preserves include Dare Game Land, and the smaller Goose Greek Game Land which is partly within this region.

The eastern portions of this region are surrounded by the Chesapeake-Pamlico Lowlands and Tidal Marshes, whereas the southwestern portions are surrounded by the Carolina Flatwoods. A small portion is also surrounded by the Mid-Atlantic Flatwoods.

This photo shows the Great Dismal Swamp, on the Virginia side of the border. This region has swampy forests and peatlands; in many places terrain is so wet as to be impassible but dry enough to support closed-canopy forests. This is a crop of a public domain photo. Photo © U.S. National Park Service, Public Domain, Source.

References

1. Woods, A.J, Omernik, J.M., Brown, D.D. "Level III and IV Ecoregions of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia", U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Corvallis, OR (1999) Web.