Celebrating International Bog Day with Keeping it Wild Trainee Martina

Farm Bog credit Andrew Harding 

This Sunday 26th July 2020 we will be celebrating International Bog Day! In anticipation of this, here’s a bit about bogs, and why they are so important to the environment, ecology and wildlife.

Firstly, what are bogs?

Bogs are a type of peatland, and peat is a type of soil which is created when plants die in waterlogged conditions and do not rot down. Bogs are home to various mosses and water-loving plants and are the thriving habitat of many species and wildlife.

Bogs today

Bogs originally covered 7% of Britain but have been reduced dramatically. In the UK at least 80% are damaged and this results in 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide being released each year. This is primarily as a result of human activity. Such activity includes:

  • Intense water extraction to meet water supply demands, reducing the water table as a result
  • Unsustainable peat extraction, mainly for horticultural use-this is particularly concerning as it takes years for peat to form
  • Drainage of the landscape for agricultural and housing uses

Why are they so important?

Global peatlands store at least 550 Gigatonnes of carbon that's more than twice the carbon stored in all forests! They are the largest land-based carbon storage spaces in the world, and UK bogs store over 3 billion tonnes of carbon alone.

WildNet - Chris Lawrence

Sphagnum (pictured above) is one of the main mosses found in bogs and plays a massively vital role.  Due to its hyaline cells which act as a sponge, it has the fascinating ability to hold large amounts of water. It can hold up to 20 times its weight in water, helping to keep the area wet and the water table high. As new layers of water-loving plants compete and grow over submerged Sphagnum, it decays and turns into peat in the process.

Bogs also play a key role in natural flood prevention as its vegetation slows the flow of rainfall. They are essential to providing clean water resources 70% of UK drinking water comes from upland areas dominated by peatlands.

Here are a few of my favourites of the many varied species and plant types supported by bogs:

Bladderworts: The spectacular underwater roots of these flowers trap creatures that get close enough to tickle the hairs near the entrance - sucking them in at a lightning speed to be suffocated and digested!

water shrew

Water shrew - Niall Benvie/2020VISION

Water shrew: The largest British shrew, which hunts for prey underwater

Emperor dragonfly

Emperor dragonfly credit  Mike Snelle

Emperor dragonfly: Britain’s biggest dragonfly, a fast-flying aerial hunter that patrols for insects as its prey

Cross leaved heath

Cross-leaved heath credit Ross Hoddinott/2020VISION

Coss-leaved heath: These pink, bell-shaped flowers clustered at the end of long branched stems attract bees and moths. Their name comes from the appearance of the small dark green leaves arranged in whorls of four around the stem.

Lesser skullcap: Light purple flowers pollinated by long-tongued bees!

Farm Bog

Farm Bog credit Andrew Harding 

Visit

Farm Bog

One of the largest of London’s six remaining lowland bogs can be found tucked away on Wimbledon Common.

Find out more