Bog

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Brown_Lake_Bog_OH.jpg
Virgin boreal acid bogs at Brown's Lake Bog, Ohio

A bog is a wetland type that accumulates acidic peat, a deposit of dead plant material. The term peat bog in common usage is not entirely redundant, although it would be proper to call these sphagnum bogs if the peat is comprised mostly of acidophilic moss (peat moss or Sphagnum spp.). Lichens are a principal component of peat in the far north. Moisture is provided entirely by precipitation and for this reason bog waters are acidic and termed ombrotrophic (or cloud-fed) which accounts for their low plant nutrient status. Excess rainfall outflows giving bog waters a distinctive tan colour.

Bogs are widely distributed in cold, temperate climates, mostly in the northern hemisphere (Boreal). The world's largest wetlands are the bogs of the Western Siberian Lowlands in Russia which cover more than 600,000 square kilometres. Sphagnum bogs were widespread in northern Europe. Ireland was more than 15 per cent bog; Achill Island off Ireland is 87 per cent bog. There are extensive bogs in Canada (called muskegs), Scotland and Finland. There are also bogs in the Falkland Islands. Ombrotrophic wetlands - ie bogs are also found in the tropics with notable areas documented in Kalimantan. These habitats are forested.

There are quite a number of terms which are frequently used as synonyms for bog, but are imprecise and best avoided. The term moor for example can refer to a flat, boggy area with patches of heath and peat moss, but moorland is a dominant habitat across large areas of the uplands of Britain from south-west England, Dartmoor to Scotland covering terrain which is neither flat nor boggy (see for example heather moorland).

Contents

Bog habitats

Bogs are challenging environments for plant life because they are low in nutrients and very acidic. Carnivorous plants have adapted to these conditions by using insects as a nutrient source. The high acidity of bogs and the absorption of water by sphagnum moss reduce the amount of water available for plants. Some bog plants, such as Leatherleaf, have waxy leaves to help retain moisture. Bogs also offer a unique environment for animals. For instance, English bogs give a home to the boghopper beetle and a yellow fly called the hairy canary.

Some bogs have preserved ancient oak logs useful in dendrochronology and they have yielded extremely well-preserved bog bodies, with organs, skin and hair intact, such as Tollund Man and Lindow man, buried there thousands of years ago after apparent Celtic human sacrifice.

Uses of bogs

Industrial uses

A bog is a very early stage in the formation of coal deposits. In fact, bogs can catch fire and often sustain long-lasting smoldering blazes, producing smoke and CO2 causing health and environmental problems. After drying peat is used as a fuel. More than 20 per cent of home heat in Ireland comes from peat and it is also used for fuel in Finland, Scotland, Germany, and Russia. Russia is the leading producer of peat for fuel at more than 90 million metric tons per year. Ireland's Bord na Mna (peat board) were one of the first companies to mechanically harvest peat.

The other major use of dried peat is as a soil amendment (sold as peat moss or sphagnum) to increase the capacity to retain moisture (http://wiktionary.org/wiki/moisture) and enrich the soil. It is also used as a mulch.

These industrial uses of peat threaten the continued existence of bogs. More than 90 per cent of the bogs in England have been destroyed.

Other uses

Crops of blueberries, cranberries and lingonberries are grown in bogs.

Sphagnum bogs are also used for sport, but this can be damaging. Bog snorkeling is popular in England and Wales and has even produced the associated sport of mountain bike bog snorkeling (http://www.myra-simon.com/bike/bog-snork.html). Llanwrtyd Wells, the smallest town in Wales, hosts the World Bog Snorkelling Championships. In this event, competitors with mask, snorkel, and SCUBA fins swim along a 60-meter trench cut through a peat bog.

July 30 is International Bog Day.

Bog is also a United Kingdom slang word for toilet.

Literature

Gothic Fiction is commonly set on the moor, an English bog. One example is "The Hound of the Baskervilles", a Sherlock Holmes story by Arthur Conan Doyle.

The Bog People: Iron-Age Man Preserved, by P.V. Glob, is a classic study of archaeology. The book is about the iron-age culture of Denmark, and the victims of ritual sacrifice by strangulation. The corpses were thrown into peat bogs where they were discovered after 2000 years, perfectly preserved, down to their facial expressions, although well-tanned by the acidic environment of the Danish bogs.

See also

de:Moor eo:Torfejo fr:Tourbire nl:Veen ru:Болото sv:Myr

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