The Value of Bottomland Hardwood Swamps

Intern Guest Blog By Johannah Ramer

Congaree National Park
Congaree National Park

If anyone reading this has been fortunate enough to experience the wonder of a mature bottomland hardwood swamp, then place yourself in a category with few other people.

Bottomland hardwoods in the Southern United States have been reduced to a small portion of what they once were for reasons anywhere from disease prevention to pine plantation development. The lands that bottomland hardwoods produce are highly fertile, making them excellent for growing any agricultural crop. There are few old growth bottomland hardwood swamps that remain relatively untouched, but places like Congaree National Park are a taste of what could be.

A large part of my role at Dogwood Alliance was to develop materials to work on valuing these bottomland hardwood systems. They hold immense ecological, social and environmental health values that are often identified as a region’s ecosystem services. Bottomland hardwoods are a forested system that is periodically flooded and therefore have a large number of unique and endangered species that exist only in these regions. These low-lying regions have great potential to prevent large-scale flooding and improve water quality through water filtration. They are also massive carbon sinks with stoarage in both the above-ground dead and living trees as well as in the soil. Bottomland hardwoods are historically undervalued, and the land is usually sold for the utilitarian values. Their qualities make bottomland hardwoods much more valuable than what any landowner could possibly get for selling them, clearing them or converting them.

THESE SWAMPS are more valuable left standing for the services they provide than for any short-term gains the forestry industry receives from clearing them.

Johannah Ramer and fellow intern Rachel Weber at Sam's Knob.
Johannah Ramer and fellow intern Rachel Weber at Sam’s Knob.

Beyond material development, I was able to help generate knowledge and interest around the Our Forests Aren’t Fuel campaign through phone banking and tabling.

The sense of community in the South is its biggest strength and weapon against the industry that looks to destroy the beautiful ecology of the region every day.

It was a true honor to be able to experience this first-hand in helping with the campaign.

My experience has taught me a great deal about all of the pieces that go into making a true positive difference in the environment, and I look forward to taking this knowledge with my as I more forward in my environmental career.

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