It's believed that 200 years ago, there were as many as 5,000 acres of bogs across Southern Appalachia. Only about 500 acres remain today.
There are four types of wetlands—marshes, swamps, fens, and bogs—which are differentiated by the salinity of the water, soil type, and the plants and animals that live there. Spongy, peaty soil and acidic water characterize bogs, which are fed by surface water.
Today, conservationists are bringing these fascinating, yet imperiled ecosystems back from the brink in hopes of creating Western North Carolina's first national wildlife refuge.
Megan Sutton, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Southern Blue Ridge Program, plays a key role in bog conservation efforts.
Bog stewards with The Nature Conservancy slog through a water channel at the Etowah wetland to reach hydrologic test sites for inspection. Rain gauges in several sedimentation ponds measure water levels.
To ensure the health of the rare inhabitants, woody vegetation and nonnative plant species are identified and cleared by volunteers.
A marker denotes a control plot that is part of an experiment to eradicate the invasive marsh dewflower.
Mountain Sweet Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia rubra ssp. jonesii)
Oppenheim photographs the life cycle of the mountain sweet pitcher plant (Sarracenia rubra) for his project, A Year in the LIfe of a Bog. New buds appear on the plant in early spring.
By early May, this endangered specimen begins to show its crimson petals.
This crimson beauty is in full bloom by May and June.
The pitcher plant opens wide before its petals fade away by mid summer.
Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum)
Green Frog (Rana clamitans)
Southern Blue Flag Iris (Iris Virginica)
Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)
Bog Turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii)
Common Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia). Photograph by Jennifer Murphy
Swamp Pink Flower (Helonias bullata) Photograph by Paul Stein