wetlands on earth

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Not all swamps are the misty, murky places of folklore, where spongy ground beneath your feet sucks greedily at your shoes, as if wanting to swallow you whole. They are, in fact, wonderfully diverse eco–systems ,and  while the wildlife in many swamps can seem quite intimidating, such as the fearsome crocodiles or huge constricting snakes like the Anaconda, swamps are also home to many much smaller creatures, and provide glorious opportunities to see wildlife in the absolute raw, with wonderfully primeval atmospheres.

1. THE SUNDARBANS SWAMP DELTA

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Not all swamps are freshwater wetlands, but include some that border the oceans, home to magical, mystical mangrove trees, with vast and complex root systems. . Mangrove swamps can be found along tropical seacoasts on both sides of the equator, but are not, as popular myth would have it, all filthy places alive with mosquitoes, snakes and spiders. In actual fact, mangrove swamps protect the land from both soil erosion and the worst effects of storms, as well as, naturally filtering out industrial and human waste from the swamp waters.

They form as important a part of  the water cycle as any other marshland. The Sundarbans are the largest single example of tidal mangrove swamps on earth, though by no means the biggest swamp.  Literally translated as “beautiful jungle” or “beautiful forest”, the name may originate with the ‘Sundari’ trees, found there in large numbers. The swamp is huge, spreading from  the foot of the Ganges river over 10,000 sq km of Bangladesh and Indian West Bengal, , of which about 6,000 are in Bangladesh.

2. THE VASYUGAN SWAMP, RUSSIA

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Almost all swamps on earth are comparatively small, but our planet plays host to some truly monumentally sized areas of swamp, the most extensive of which, by far, are the Russian Vasyugan swamps,which cover an area as large as the entire country of Switzerland, something over  53,000 square kilometers  of watery wasteland, containing no less than 800 lakes, as well as countless  rivers and streams that originate in the Vasyugan.  The natural fuel peat is abundant here, around. 2% of total world supply.

There are no people in the Vasyugan, just bushes laden down with various fruits, including cranberries, cloud berries and bog bilberries. Animals and birds native to these swamps  have no fear ofhumans because they are so rarely seen. Vasyugan swamps are natural phenomena that for sheer size are unparalleled anywhere else on earth, though other massive swamplands are worthy of mention.

3. THE PANATAL SWAMP, BRAZIL

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The Pantanal swamp spreads carelessly across the borders of Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay with carefree abandon. Portuguese word ‘pântano’, meaning wetland, or marsh, was the origin of the name, and though muc less well-known than the Amazon rain forest, the Pantanal is incredible, simply because of what happens to it in the rainy season. Between December and May every year, the waters of these swamps swell to encompass an area ten times larger than the Florida everglades, and even bigger than England, at well over 100,000 sq km  in area.

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650 species of bird are to be found there, the largest having wing s 10ft across, while the smallest weighs a minute 0.07 ounce. Water level rises by 15 ft or more in the rainy season, islands of shrubs and tall standing tropical trees among the swamps. The Pantanal is, at those times, the largest swamp on earth, but it is not the largest of the world’s  protected swamps.

4. THE SUDD SWAMP, SUDAN

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For this awesome honour, you need to visit the Sudd swamp, in Sudan, alongside the White Nile south of Khartoum.  During the dry season, Sudd is no more than a mere 14 million acres of watery bog, dominated by, swamp grasses and papyrus, but when the rainy season takes hold,  the area covered expands to over 30million acres, half the size of the entire country of France.  Over half of the water volume of the White Nile will be held in the Sudd at this time, yet navigation through the swamps is not at all easy. Vegetation here is so prolific in growing  that giant blocks form and move around on the surface, creating an ever changing challenge. All boats need to carry saws and chains, to help with clearing the way when floating islands block the route. Nowadays declared an  international wetland reserve, the Sudd is by far the largest protected swamp in the world.

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5. THE OKEFENOKEE SWAMP, USA

By far the largest swampland in the United States has to be is the Okefenokee swamp, which covers an area of. 700 square miles spanning the states of South Georgia and North Florida . Lying in a gigantic bowl-shaped depression, Okefenokee Swamp has over time developed into a wetland some  25 miles wide by 40 miles long, 1,000 sq miles of unique and primitive marsh, home to several  hundred species of wildlife, including endangered or threatened examples.. Towering bald cypress  trees overlook an apparently endless variety of water plants, of which many were used medicinal ly by native Indians i long before white men appeared in the area. It was the natives who taught early settlers the value living in balance with nature.

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These five incredible natural wetland eco-systems are among the most fascinating places on the planet to visit if you enjoy nature at her most basic.  Getting your head around the areas of land covered by these swamps is not easy, but since humanity avoids them where possible, they may be the best chance some species have for surviving the terrible incursions of man into the natural world. Swamps are superb  places to see. Long may mankind avoid trying to exploit them.

All images used with permission. All information sourced from Wikipedia

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