Florida is known for its incredible white sandy beaches and clear blue ocean water, but there is another thriving ecosystem that lies throughout—the swamp.
Here is where many of Florida’s most unique and important wildlife species make their home. Curious about how and why these ecosystems exist? Simply read on to discover the unlikely home of Florida’s most unusual wildlife and how the ecosystem sustains the entire state! Take a look.
What is a Swamp?
A swamp is defined as an area of land permanently saturated, or filled, with water. That’s not all there is to it though. There are two types of swamps: freshwater swamps and saltwater swamps. Each type is dominated by trees and are often named based off the tree species that grow there. Cypress swamps and hardwood swamps are among the most common types.
As you may have guessed, saltwater swamps are found mostly in coastal areas. Freshwater swamps are usually found inland where many freshwater species thrive. These unique ecosystems are neither fully land or fully water and are often former lakes or ponds that have been overtaken by trees and native shrubbery.
Where are Swamps Found?
Swamps can be found on all continents of the world except Antarctica. Florida is home to many! Traditionally, Native Americans relied on the ecosystem to produce all of their survival needs. In fact, swamps can be found in almost every area of Florida. This is due to the state’s high water table, substantial rainfall and majorly flat landscape. Some notable swamps in the state are Green Swamp in Polk County, the Everglades in the south and Corkscrew Swamp, north of Naples. Practically anywhere you venture to in Florida is bound to have a swamp ecosystem and that means tons of unique wildlife abounds.
Many rare and one-of-a-kind wildlife species inhabit swamp ecosystems in Florida. This includes the rare Florida panther, an endangered subspecies of the cougar. The American Alligator is among one of the most common residents of Florida swamps. Dozens of species of turtles inhabit Florida swamps as well as tortoises and terrapins. This includes rarities like the loggerhead, the Florida snapping turtle, the Atlantic leatherback and more. White-tailed deer are another common resident of the ecosystem and are identified by their distinctive white underside of their tails.
Lastly, there’s the creatures of the water that often venture into swamp areas to feed on seagrasses, like the West Indian Manatee. These gentle giants reach 1,000 Ibs. and average 8 to 13 feet in length. These “sea cows” are crucial to the swamp ecosystem as they keep seagrass beds short which helps maintain the health of the grass beds.
Many types of vegetation make up the Florida swamp ecosystem and are crucial to their survival. Some of the most common include: cypress, red mangrove, cabbage palms, Florida royal palms, sawgrass, and Spanish moss. Each and every type of native vegetation offers a root system or the shade to provide a nutrient rich and sheltered habitat for all of the species that live here.
The Importance of Swamps
While many think of a swamp as an eerie movie setting, they are actually a thriving ecosystem that is extremely important to the environment as a whole. Swamps provide food, nesting areas, shelter and water to the many incredible species that live in Florida. They also serve humans as major flood control and purifiers of the water.
Swamps play a vital role as the platform of the Florida food chain. Tons of microscopic life forms live within the waters. Algae, zooplankton, fish, snails and more all live within the swamp ecosystem. These basic life forms provide the building blocks for all Florida wildlife to thrive. There is truly no end to the benefits of the swamp ecosystem, therefore they should be admired and protected.
For an up-close look at the incredible swamp ecosystem, opt for an airboat ride on which you’ll have the chance to see the unique wildlife that lives here from a safe setting. Aboard our Orlando airboat tours, you and your family can learn about Lake Jesup and all the swamp wildlife that lives here. See alligators, turtles, deer, bird species and more as you cruise along safely in classic Florida fashion. Come discover all that this magnificent landscape has to offer at The Black Hammock by booking your Oveido airboat ride today!