Week of August 13, 2023 – August 19, 2023
by Bridget Jones, Environmental Educator
Have you ever come across a patch of mud in an otherwise dry forest? Perhaps you felt the ground start to squish beneath your feet while hiking, or noticed a color difference where leaves were suddenly saturated with water. While finding mud in the forest may seem unremarkable, it is worth a closer look: you may have found a fascinating type of ecosystem called a seep!
A seep is a place where groundwater emerges, often from a hillside, to spill over the forest floor. When a seep appears, it transforms the area around it into a small wetland. Since the groundwater remains at a relatively consistent temperature year round, it can create a water source for animals in winter and give an early start to plants growing in spring. Because of this, seeps provide important resources and habitat for forest life.
Exploring a seep up close can also reveal miniature landscapes hidden right in the forest. The flowing groundwater creates tiny rivers, small circulating pools, and dripping waterfalls. These small-scale waterways are inhabited by a diverse array of moisture-loving creatures. Slugs and snails ooze over the leaves, while salamanders, millipedes, and toads burrow in the mud under rocks and branches. The damp conditions also allow forests of moss and fungi to thrive. In the small ecosystem created by a seep, an entire world revolves around the sudden emergence of groundwater.
Even at a small size, forest seeps are packed with life and provide resources to sustain many creatures in the surrounding forest. If you find one, make sure to treat it gently and leave it as you found it. Take a moment to look closely, and appreciate the communities of life that gather around this tiny wetland.