When the Okefenokee Swamp Burns

Hot summers… extended periods of drought… plenty of exposed organic peat material… and a random but well-placed lightning strike; all these ingredients cook up to make large fires. South Georgia, and especially the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, face this imminent threat every year. Often, hundreds upon hundreds of square miles burn for several days at a time.

Burned cypress tree stump in the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. May, 2020. ©http://www.williamwisephoto.com. Please don’t steal my images. Download and use legally from Dreamstime.com.

But is fire bad? In reality, wildfires actually are what keep the Okefenokee Swamp a swamp. As the fires sweep the prairies of the refuge, the shrubs and young hardwoods are killed back. The large cypress and Long-leaf pines tolerate the flames and thus the characteristic open habitats of the Okefenokee remain.

According to the Georgia Wildlife Federation, “Fire is a necessary part of the swamp ecosystem. When it burns the swamp, usual plant succession is interrupted, preventing swamp prairies from filling with cypresses, black gums, and bays and becoming Woodland.” (Georgia Wildlife: The Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia Wildlife, Volume 6, Number 1, from Georgia Wildlife Press; 1997.)

Published by William Wise

Hi, I’m conservation photographer and nature writer William Wise. Nature journaling and wildlife photography has been a favorite pastime since the ‘90s. I graduated from University of Georgia Warnell Forestry School's wildlife program in 1996. I'm currently an animal shelter manager/photographer and reside in Athens, Georgia, USA with my wife and two teenage daughters. My website www.williamwisephoto.com is a wildlife and birding photo website documenting the beauty, design and wonder of creation. I have a deep love of the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. I became a devoted Christian in 1993 under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation. I am also a guest author at Lee's Birdwatching Adventures and The Creation Club. The theme of my blogging comes from The Message version of Psalms 104 -- "What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, You made earth overflow with your wonderful creations."

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