Swamps are generally found in natural flood plains located in the piedmont and coastal plain. You can expect to see standing water for much of the year and with some area holding water year-round. Areas that have been flooded for many years may be void of trees with grasses, sedges and rushes being the dominate vegetation. Newly flooded or areas with less prolonged flooding may be more of a forest. Tree species expected to be seen in or on the edge of a swamp include cypress, red maple, water oak, swamp white oak, blackgum, sweetgum, water tupelo, sycamore, and others.
Often swamps are created by natures engineers, and our largest rodent, the beaver. The North American beaver is a vital member of a swamp ecosystem. In fact, beavers are refered to as keystone species, because they crate habitat used by other wildlife. A beaver dam, and the pond they form, provide critical habitat for wildlife including waterfowl, wading birds, reptiles, amphibians, otters and mink. Beavers are viewed as pests by some, but if your land management goals include a healthy aquatic ecosystem efforts should be made to keep these animals around.
- Management: Most often beaver management questions are not “how do I attract beavers”, but rather “how do I get rid of them or limit their impact”. Water control structures are slightly modified, or specially designed drainage pipes used maintain a certain water level. Managing the water level in a beaver pond can promote herbaceous vegetation which provides a food source for waterfowl. Often coined “Pond Leveler” these pipes are strategically placed to control water height in a beaver pond. Varying the depth of water and the period/duration of flooding can impact the type and quantity of vegetation growing in a swamp.
Selective timber harvest in a swamp can provide diversity in the understory, seldom found in a closed canopy forest.Typically, habitat diversity results in more wildlife species utilizing a specific stand. Group selection harvest identifies small sections of forest to be clear-cut for commercial return. The small clear-cuts will allow sunlight to reach the ground or water and will provide an area for vegetation to grow. This type of timber harvest will benefit canopy dwelling species by retaining tall standing trees, while also providing food and cover for understory and ground dwelling species.
Where timber harvests are not practical, or not desired by the landowner, a more surgical approach can be used to open the canopy of a forested swamp.Small canopy gaps can be created by simply felling or killing individual or clusters of trees.Felled trees will provide basking logs for reptiles and structure for amphibians.Dead standing trees, known as snags, provide nesting sites for species like woodpeckers, squirrels and wood ducks, just to name a few. Snags also hold insects that insectivores will feed on. Two techniques for creating snags are girdling and the hack and squirt method. Contact your local wildlife biologist for more information. (Hyperlink or insert WRC contact PDF?)
Additional information to assist you in managing swamps and beaver ponds can be found at:
Insert PDF on managing beaver ponds Pgs 63-68
NCWRC Species Pages, Beaver
Marshes are areas of land that are saturated at high tide or when an area is flooded. They are dominated by grasses, sedges, and rushes which are all types of herbaceous vegetation. You can find marshes at transition between water and land. Marshes can be found in fresh or salt water, on the edges of streams, lakes, and estuaries. Marshes provide critical areas of nesting, escape cover, and food for a variety of animals.
- Management: Management strategies for marshes include controlling invasive species, creating open water, and prescribed burning. Non-native invasive plant species can out compete and choke out native herbaceous plants in these fertile wetlands. Mechanical removal and selective herbicide application can both be effective tools for controlling these botanical invaders. When using herbicides in aquatic situations it is critical that herbicide be labeled for aquatic use and that all label directions are followed.
Open water is an essential component of a marsh, providing areas for many different species to feed, sleep, or even breed. Depending on scale, removal of woody vegetation or setting back the succession to create openings can be completed with the use of heavy equipment, hand tools or herbicides. In some instances, prescribed burning can be a great way to remove thatch buildup, control woody species and encourage new green growth that many species select to feed on. Contact your local biologist for more information. (Hyperlink or insert WRC contact PDF?)
Check out the article below to learn the benefits of having a controlled burn in your marsh:
Insert coastal marsh burning PDF
Natural pools are characterized as depressions in the ground that hold water for a period of time but are dry part of the year. Usually these pools hold water during the winter and spring, are dry during the summer and refill with water in the late fall. These pools provide critical breeding areas for several species of amphibians and insects. The intermittent pools are so essential to these species because they tend to be free of fish, which prey upon amphibian eggs and larvae. Water sources to fill natural pools include stream overflow, rain, or groundwater.
Interested in learning more about existing pools on your land? Check out the link below:
UNCG The Herp Project: Ephemeral Pools Landowner Packet
Pocosins are found in the coastal plain and can be described as having acidic, nutrient poor, organic soils where the groundwater keeps the soil saturated except in severe drought. Typical vegetation is a dense stand of waxy shrubs and woody vines. You can expect to find pond pine, Atlantic white cedar, loblolly pine, and several bay species growing here.
Pocosins were likely maintained by naturally occurring fire before European settlement. Great caution must be used with burning pocosins, or any area with organic soils as the soil itself can burn. Consult with an experienced burner if you plan to burn sites with organic soils.
Considering each tier of the forest vegetation when planning and implementing management of a pocosins. Retain mature trees while providing suitable habitat for ground and mid-story dwelling species.Another option is to create snags. Snags are dead standing trees that provide for many species like woodpeckers, squirrels, wood ducks. The snags hold insects that insectivores will feed on and provide shelter within small excavated holes in the tree called cavities. A couple of techniques for creating snags are girdling or the hack and squirt method. Contact your local biologist for more information. (Hyperlink or insert WRC contact PDF?)
Carolina Bays are natural depressions in the earth that are surrounded by an upland “rim”. Concentrated in southeastern North Carolina these wetlands typically have sandy to fine clay soils. While large bays such as Lake Waccamaw may hold water year round. However, most tend to have standing water for only part of the year, drying up during summer months. Many Carolina Bays have been drained by ditching for commercial farming or timber production.
Easily identified on air photos, the origin of the elliptical shaped Carolina Bays has long been debated. Theories as to how they were made include meteor strikes, artesian springs and paleo-natives peat fires. While the origin of Carolina Bays may still be uncertain their importance to local wildlife cannot be denied. The bays which are still intact provide important breeding habitat for frogs and salamanders, because many of these wetlands rarely contain fish which are predators to amphibians.
- Management: Consider pine management techniques (Hyperlink doesn’t work currently) such as thinning, group selection, and prescribed burning when managing your Carolina Bay. Carefully conducted timber harvests can maintain species diversity and habitat quality by opening the forest canopy, allowing sunlight to reach understory vegetation. Considering each tier of the forest vegetation when planning and implementing management of a Carolina Bay will retain mature trees while providing suitable habitat for ground and mid-story dwelling species. Contact your local biologist for more information. (Hyperlink or insert WRC contact PDF?)
Bogs are formed by a combination of groundwater seepage and blocked overland runoff. Changes in land use has resulted in a decline in acreage of this habitat type in North Carolina. It is estimated that historically there could have been up to 5000 acres of bogs in North Carolina. Changes in land use and grazing practices have resulted in about 500 acres existing today. This type of wetland is moist but not typically flooded other than following rain events. It is found over organic or mineral acidic soils. You can expect to find plants like sphagnum moss, grasses, sedges, rushes, cinnamon fern, and various types of pitcher plants growing in this unique habitat type. Woody shrubs and trees will quickly invade these sites without periodic disturbance. Too many trees and shrubs not only shade out beneficial herbaceous vegetation, but can also impact hydrology due to removing water through transpiration. Bogs are vitally important to species like bog turtles, four-toed salamanders, and alder flycatchers.
Management: To best manage bogs control woody plant encroachment, control invasive species, maintain surface water and groundwater hydrology (using ditch plugs, temporary dams, level spreaders, or other engineering devices), and restoration native herbaceous vegetation. Excluding livestock from the bogs is important, but limited grazing can be a critical management tool.