In a world filled with breathtaking beauty, we have often overlooked the elusive charm and magic of certain landscapes. A cloudy river flows into a verdant Arctic wetland where sandhill cranes and muskoxen dwell. Further south, cypress branches hang low over dismal swamps. Places like these–collectively known as swamplands or peatlands–often go unnoticed for their ecological splendor. They are as globally significant as rainforests, and function as critical carbon sinks for addressing our climate crisis. Yet, because of their reputation as wastelands, they are being systematically drained and degraded to make way for oilsands, mines, farms, and electricity.
In Swamplands, journalist Edward Struzik celebrates these wild places, venturing into windswept bogs in Kauai and the last remnants of an ancient peatland in the Mojave Desert. The secrets of the swamp aren't for the faint of heart. Ed loses a shoe to an Arctic wolf and finds himself ankle-deep in water during a lightning storm. But, the rewards are sweeter for the struggle: an enchanting Calypso orchid; an elusive yellow moth thought to be extinct; ancient animals preserved in lifelike condition down to the fur.
Swamplands highlights the unappreciated struggle being waged to save peatlands by scientists, conservationists, and landowners around the world. An ode to peaty landscapes in all their offbeat glory, the book is also a demand for awareness of the myriad threats they face. It urges us to see the beauty and importance in these least likely of places. Our planet's survival might depend on it.
Chapter 1: The Great Dismal Swamp
Chapter 2: Central Park
Chapter 3: Peat and Endangered Species
Chapter 4: Tropical Peat
Chapter 5: Ash Meadows, Ancient Bogs, and Desert Fens
Chapter 6: Sasquatches of the Swamps
Chapter 7: Peat and Reptiles
Chapter 8: Mountain Peat
Chapter 9: Ring of Fire: The Hudson Bay Lowlands
Chapter 10: Pingos, Polygons, and Frozen Peat
Chapter 11: Tundra Beavers, Saltwater Trout, and Barren-Ground Grizzly Bears
Chapter 12: Portals to the Otherworld
Chapter 13: "Growing Peat"
About the Author
Edward Struzik has been writing about scientific and environmental issues for more than 30 years. A fellow at the Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy at Queen's University in Kingston, Canada, his numerous accolades include the prestigious Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy and the Sir Sandford Fleming Medal, awarded for outstanding contributions to the understanding of science. His books include Future Arctic, Arctic Icons, The Big Thaw, Northwest Passage, and Firestorm. He is an active speaker and lecturer, and his work as a regular contributor to Yale Environment 360 covers topics such as the effects of climate change and fossil fuel extraction on northern ecosystems and their inhabitants. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta.
"Struzik has journeyed into the little-known world of swamplands and returned with a richly detailed, beautifully written, cautionary tale of a climate superhero in crisis. For anyone concerned about global warming, wildfires, water shortages and conservation, Swamplands is a poignant reminder that some solutions are right at our toe-tips. For peat's sake, read this book!"
– Sarah Cox, author of Breaching the Peace: The Site C Dam and a Valley's Stand Against Big Hydro
"Expect to encounter the unexpected in this science- and story-rich book. Most unexpected will be your new fascination with bogs, fens, moors, and marshes – those folklorically dark, pestilential environments. Edward Struzik and a procession of eccentric-yet-wise characters turn old, deprecating notions on their head and reveal fabled wastelands to be vital wonderlands."
– Jack E. Davis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea and The Bald Eagle: The Improbable Journey of America's Bird
"Hiking and paddling into swamps, bogs, and fens large and small, Edward Struzik takes us into hidden and watery peatlands. We need to know peat. Struzik's the expert to lead us."
– Deborah Cramer, author of The Narrow Edge
"This amazing book is as rich and multilayered as swamplands themselves. You won't be able to stop reading as you discover these remarkable, hidden places – critical habitat for myriad birds, mammals, insects, and plants, and essential for the health of our entire planet."
– Jeffrey Wells, Vice President, Boreal Conservation, National Audubon Society