Interpreting ancient swamp communities: Can we see the forest in the peat? Academic Article uri icon


  • A comparison of the taxonomic composition of mangrove (salt-water) peats from the Everglades National Park and the swamp forests in which the peats accumulated shows that the rank abundance of roots belonging to a taxon in peat can be used to predict the rank abundance of that taxon in the swamp forest. Thus the rank abundance of taxa in permineralized peats can be used to reconstruct ancient swamp-forests. Factors that correlate with salinity, primarily the abundance of detritovores in mangrove swamps, appear to control the shoot-root ratios of the peats studied. Fresh-water swamps peats have few detritovores, low rates of decomposition, and relatively high shoot-root ratios (mean = 2.03).Mangrove peats have many detritovores, high rates of decomposition, and low shoot-root ratios (mean = 0.16). Variation in the shoot-root ratios of marsh peats do not correlate with salinity. However, shoot-root ratios may be useful in predicting the growth environment of ancient permineralized peats derived from ancient swamp forests. Paleotropical permineralized peats of Late Carboniferous age have extremely high shoot-root ratios. A model for peat accumulation based on the work of Janzen (1974) suggests that these high shoot-root ratios may be indicative of tropical blackwater swamps. Factors that are uncorrelated with salinity such as rainfall regime may determine the difference between Okefenokee shoot-root ratios (mean = 2.03) and extremely high shoot-root ratios (> 100) of paleotropical permineralized peats from putative blackwater swamps. 1987.

published proceedings

  • Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology

altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Raymond, A.

citation count

  • 20

complete list of authors

  • Raymond, Anne

publication date

  • January 1987