Heritage Conservancy is thrilled to announce that the Quakertown Swamp recently received the designation as a “Wetland of Distinction” by the Society of Wetland Scientists (SWS), currently making it one of only two areas in Pennsylvania to receive this recognition. Based out of Madison, Wisconsin, the SWS approved this listing for the Quakertown Swamp after Heritage Conservancy facilitated the application process. Through its mission, the “Wetlands of Distinction” program recognizes the World’s most valuable wetland ecosystems.
According to SWS, in order to be eligible for designation, criteria for an area includes: it must be listed on more than one “valuable wetland” list by natural resource agencies or nongovernment organizations; it must protect biologically diverse wetland flora, fauna and/or their habitat; and it must support significant numbers of wetland-dependent fauna, such as water birds or fish. Quakertown Swamp meets all of these qualifications!
Quakertown Swamp has long been recognized as an exceptional wetland habitat, encompassing an area of approximately 518 acres in Richland, East Rockhill and West Rockhill Townships, of which Heritage Conservancy owns over 70 acres. Residential land use within and surrounding the Swamp is significant, which makes it essential to protect certain pockets to sustain this ecosystem. Fragmentation by land development is a significant threat to the Swamp’s health.
According to the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI), the Quakertown Swamp is one of the largest intact, inland wetlands in southeastern Pennsylvania, and it is home to a diverse array of plant and animal life. The variety of habitat includes open water along Bog Run, shrub wetland, cattail marsh, wet meadow and forested swamp, which provide a haven for a variety of wildlife species, in particular—birds!
The Swamp supports several rare bird species and has been designated by the National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area (IBA). In fact, the Swamp is home to what may be the largest Great Blue Heron rookery in eastern Pennsylvania, and it is home to over 70 species of other nesting birds.
Because of the Swamp’s unique nature, it is also listed as a Wild Plant Sanctuary by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, with several rare floral species discovered there. The Swamp is also categorized by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as an all-important wetland area.
During a BioBlitz of Heritage Conservancy’s 70-acre Quakertown Swamp Preserve in 2016, over 300 plant and animal species were surveyed living on the property!
Not only does Quakertown Swamp support such a plethora of plant and animal life, but it also provides a benefit for our community. Swamps store water during floods, preventing costly flood damage to downstream areas. Also, their dense plant growth absorbs pollutants from water, which helps to maintain our region’s water quality.
“We’ve come a long way in understanding the importance of wetlands,” said Jeff Marshall, President of Heritage Conservancy. “What used to be perceived as a swamp that needed to be drained to be productive is now getting recognition that a swamp is productive in its own way and needs to be preserved in order to provide ever increasing benefits to our community.”
“We were very pleased to receive and approve the application for the Quakertown Swamp as a ‘Wetland of Distinction,’” said Jason E. Smith, PWS – Co-Chair of the Wetlands of Distinction Committee for the Society of Wetland Scientists. “Long-term protection of such valuable wetlands will depend on recognition and support by the public, especially those who surround and benefit the most from preservation and protection efforts.”
It is through decades of partnerships and support from caring community members that the Quakertown Swamp has continued to flourish despite adversity (i.e., fragmentation). Heritage Conservancy is proud to have achieved the designation of “Wetland of Distinction” for such an important ecosystem. This recognition is a reminder to everyone that we are fortunate to have this significant natural resource and that it is deserving of protection.
Heritage Conservancy hosts several school field trips and outreach events on the property each year to connect your community to this special place. To watch a virtual tour of Heritage Conservancy’s Quakertown Swamp Preserve, click HERE.