This lesson is on the biotic and abiotic factors of the swamp. In this lesson, we’ll learn what a swamp is in biology, what biotic and abiotic factors are, and specific examples for the swamp.
What Is a Swamp?
Imagine you win a trip to Florida and can choose any place in the state to visit. Where in Florida would you go? Maybe Miami for a glamorous night out, or maybe Orlando to visit the theme parks. But you can also find one of the most interesting types of ecosystems in Florida, too: beautiful and mysterious swamps.Low laying areas that are flooded with water year round and rich in woody plants are called swamps.
Swamps may be known for sticky mud and pesky mosquitoes, but they are also host to tons of amazing species found nowhere else. They are a critical part of our natural world, providing rich biodiversity and oxygen. The most well known swamps in the United States are in the Everglades in Florida; however, there are many other swamps around the world, such as the Yangtze river in China and the Niger Delta in Nigeria.Swamps are a type of ecosystem, which includes all the living and non-living factors in an area and how they all work together to support life. There are two main pieces to having a healthy ecosystem, abiotic factors, which are non-living, and biotic factors, which are living.
Since ‘bio’ means life, you can remember that the biotic factors are living, and the abiotic factors are non living. Let’s take a look at each of these more closely in our swamp ecosystem.
Abiotic and Biotic Factors
Abiotic factors are all of the non-living factors in an ecosystem that are needed for life. The nutrient composition of the soil, amount of sunlight, temperature, water, and weather are crucial factors in an ecosystem. In the swamps, water floods the ground and the soil is completely saturated for parts of the year.
This dark, nutrient-rich soil is known as alluvial soil and is only deposited in places flooded with freshwater from rivers.The abundant sunlight in the summer, up to 13 hours a day, also provides trees with energy to make food for themselves and, consequently, the rest of the ecosystem. During the wet season, the Everglades temperatures can rise to about 90 degrees Fahrenheit with extremely high humidity. During their dry season, which is like winter in more northern forests, the temperatures may drop into the 50’s.Biotic factors are all of the living things in an ecosystem. Each ecosystem has unique biotic factors, based on which abiotic factors are present. The extremely flooded soil gives rise to woody trees, resistant to water.
Despite the floods, all swamps are rich in biodiversity, or the amount of species present, due to the nutrient rich soil.
Woody trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants are abundant, providing homes for many unique animal species found nowhere else. In Florida, the red mangrove grows in shallow waters and has aerial roots, meaning they extend above ground. Their root systems provide shelter for small fish and crustaceans as well as larger species like reptiles and birds.Flowers also make a home in these murky waters. Swamp lilies have white flowers that dot the swamp in warm temperatures. Other species are not so benign.
The strangler fig grows around other trees, literally strangling them out of existence. Eventually, the strangler fig survives on its own, leaving a shell of a larger tree in its wake.
Animals are also biotic factors in the swamp. Perhaps the most iconic species in the Everglades is the American alligator. Alligators are top predators in the swamp, eating other reptiles, mammals, and birds.
As a top predator, they control the population of other species in the swamp, keeping the ecosystem in balance. These mammoths weigh over 1,000 pounds and can grow up to 15 feet in length.Currently, the American alligator is being threatened by invasive species such as the Burmese python, which is native to countries in Southeast Asia and was brought to Florida as a pet.
Irresponsible pet owners and natural disasters have released this animal into the wild, where it competes for food and space with the alligator and sometimes is even a predator of the alligator itself.The prey for these top predators are equally important. Due to the abundance of small fish and crustaceans, birds flourish in the swamp. Weighing only around seven pounds, the great blue heron might seem small, but its wing span can reach over six feet in length. This majestic bird wanders through the swamp, standing still until a suitable meal swims by, which the heron impales with its long beak.The black swamp snakes also makes a home in the swamps of Florida. This snake spends much of its time in water, taking advantage of the flooded swamps.
Only about 22 inches in length, this snake can be identified by its bright red belly.
In summary, a swamp is low laying ecosystem that is flooded with water year round and rich in woody plants. Swamps exist all over the world, but a prominent one in the United States is parts of the Florida Everglades. The abiotic factors or non-living elements that are important include the year-round flooding, nutrient-rich soil, and warm temperatures in the summer with high humidity. The biotic factors are all the living things in an ecosystem.
Common plants in the Everglades are red mangroves, whose aerial roots provide a home for many small fish and crustaceans, which are preyed on by birds like the great blue heron. Aquatic reptiles are also common, like the black swamp snake.