Tundra Beavers, Quaking Bogs, and the Improbable World of Peat
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 oil sands, 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.
Published by Island Press
Praise for Swamplands
Adventurous natural history… Swamplands belongs to the John McPhee school of science popularizing, incorporating profiles of on-site specialists into its crisp and enthusiastic explainers.
― Wall Street Journal
Part science, part history, part travelogue…[a] rare treasure—nature writing that isn’t pure elegy.
[A] timely and enchanting disquisition on the many facets of peat……ultimately this is a book that stands apart for its playfulness and curiosity, for a sense of wonder that does not yield to despair or grief.
― Gayatri Kumar, Literary Review of Canada
… a timely cry against the ongoing consequences of draining wetlands for farmland and commercial development, and of stripping peatlands for fuel and fertilizer. Struzik asks us to pay attention to the ecological borderlands, the spaces that are neither water nor land “but water and land sharing dominance, like the marginal world of a tidal zone.” Indeed, humble peat may just help us mitigate the effects of a rapidly warming planet.
― Trina Moyles, Alberta Views
Struzik writes with immediacy and a sense of awe, bewitching readers with the unexpected beauty of peatlands.
A powerful, impressive feat of popular science that is vitally needed in an era of climate change.
― Library Journal
Struzik’s writing is consistently descriptive and conversational, so that the reader feels as though they’re accompanying him and his interviewees through isolated landscapes , sharing his sense of wonder.
― Economy, Land & Climate Insight
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