What is a word "swamp" associated with today? These are mosquitoes, dirt, and water. It is a gloomy place, isn't it? Meanwhile, the world of swamps is really beautiful. Bizarre shapes and unique hues create fabulous images among emerald-brown sphagnum, a moss family that includes 320 species. About 30 species grow in swamps of Polissia, in some places of the forest-steppe, and the Carpathians. White brushes of a cotton grass and pink flowers of a bog rosemary, similar to small lanterns, are scattered on soft mounds of red loose cranberry berries like beads. Probably, there was a clear and a large lake in a place of a current swamp about 2,000 years ago. During last centuries the lake shoaled and covered with algae and moss, until it turned into a swamp and was grown with a bizarre forest.

The Rudyak swamp nearby Vorokhta with an area of 100 hectares is one of the most interesting and valuable sites in the Carpathians. It belongs to high marshes, which is fed mainly by precipitation.

This does not mean that there is no life on a swamp. The surrounding area has a very rich ecosystem! More than 200 species of plants and animals can be found and identified on one square meter.

A rusty bogmoss is a main host of the marsh. It is a small but productive plant, since it creates the biggest amount of peat. The structure of the plant is very simple. It consists of a branchy stem with a compact head and small leaves. The moss absorbs moisture with its whole body, like a sponge. A dry moss can absorb such amount of water, what is 20-30 times more from its own weight. Filtering water solutions of a swamp through itself, the sphagnum extracts necessary salts from them. The moss also absorbs carbon dioxide from the air. It functions like an ordinary plant. There is an only one difference: mosses grow in places, where many other types of plants would surely die. The swamp consists of oligotrophic sphagnum peat for its entire length. A peat layer is 3 m deep.

Almost all species forming grass-shrub layers are rare for the Carpathians, such as a round-leaved sundew and multi-leaved bog-rosemary. Common and small-fruited cranberries are rare for the whole Ukraine. A black crowberry grows here too. The rare few-flowered sedge also grows here. No matter how strange it sounds, but orchids grow in the swamp: they are a common spotted orchids and early coral root. These orchids are much smaller than similar tropical species, but they are beautiful and unique.

Life at the swamp is a challenge for forest plants, such as spruce, birch, and fir. Not all species can grow in mineral-poor soil with high concentration of peat, which has an acidic reaction, with constant waterlogging and low soil temperature. You can also see spruce here, the main representative of Carpathian forests. This tree does not look like a tall slender beauty at all. They are similar to bent trees that accidentally entered into unfavorable conditions.

The swamp hides its own secret. It even sometimes frightens. Special animals live here, such as birds, amphibians and mammals. Each species is unique. Eurasian water shrew and European water vole can be found at the swamp. Deer and roe deer run by. There are also frogs and newts among shrews. Vipers can be found here too. Although the animal world of the swamps is not too bright, it is still diverse and it lives its own special life.

Swamps are a source of huge natural resources that have been used by humans for a long time. Renewable resources of marshes include berries, mushrooms, wood, and sphagnum mosses. During the last years people began to understand that the marshes are beautiful landscapes and the unique component of the national park. It should be remembered that both renewable and non-renewable resources of swamps can be available only if swamps stay in their natural conditions or close to them. Water, peat and living inhabitants of swamps are three components on which a healthy, "alive" swamp stands. If we break one of these three elements, we will lose all the gifts the swamp brings.

Andriy PALIYCHUK, deputy head of the Vorokhta Nature Protection Scientific and Research Department