Okefenokee – Peat

Science Diary: Okefenokee – Peat

Music; Ambience: rain, sandhill cranes

Campbell: “It is one of the largest, unfragmented tracts of wilderness and wild land that we’ve got in the eastern United States of unlit, unroaded landscape.”

Imagine an organic sponge that’s roughly half the size of Rhode Island, and it’s growing. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. It’s a rainy day and we’re navigating through the waterways of Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge with naturalist Chip Campbell.

“Okefenokee is the largest blackwater swamp in the United States. It’s not the largest swamp, but of the swamps that are based on peat, this is the big one. The floor of Okefenokee is this partially decayed plant matter. That, literally, is what built Okefenokee swamp. There’s no mud here. There is a sandy floor underneath, and then over about the last 6,500 years pretty short amount of time geologically speaking an accumulation of this organic material has developed. And that bog holds water like a sponge, and as it began to accumulate, it became a self-replicating system that, as it held water, it began to attract more and more of these wetland species, which, in turn, generate a lot of peat. Each growing season puts a little more leaf litter down in this basin. It continues to grow just infinitesimally every year.”

[ambience sandhill cranes]

Every hundred years, the Okefenokee swamp puts on another inch or two of spongy peat. Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Okefenokee - Peat

Think of a swamp, and you might picture mud and muck. But Okefenokee rests on a spongy foundation of peat.
Air Date:07/06/2015
Scientist:
Transcript:

Science Diary: Okefenokee - Peat

Music; Ambience: rain, sandhill cranes

Campbell: "It is one of the largest, unfragmented tracts of wilderness and wild land that we've got in the eastern United States of unlit, unroaded landscape."

Imagine an organic sponge that's roughly half the size of Rhode Island, and it's growing. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. It's a rainy day and we're navigating through the waterways of Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge with naturalist Chip Campbell.

"Okefenokee is the largest blackwater swamp in the United States. It's not the largest swamp, but of the swamps that are based on peat, this is the big one. The floor of Okefenokee is this partially decayed plant matter. That, literally, is what built Okefenokee swamp. There's no mud here. There is a sandy floor underneath, and then over about the last 6,500 years pretty short amount of time geologically speaking an accumulation of this organic material has developed. And that bog holds water like a sponge, and as it began to accumulate, it became a self-replicating system that, as it held water, it began to attract more and more of these wetland species, which, in turn, generate a lot of peat. Each growing season puts a little more leaf litter down in this basin. It continues to grow just infinitesimally every year."

[ambience sandhill cranes]

Every hundred years, the Okefenokee swamp puts on another inch or two of spongy peat. Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.