AS A CLIMATE SAVIOR
In addition to serving as a habitat for many fascinating animal and plant species, bog country also benefits us by functioning as a giant storage system: Though they constitute just 3% of the land area of the Earth, pristine peatlands bind around 550 billion tons of carbon— twice as much as all the world’s forests combined can bind. The problem: Every year around 1,900 square miles gets destroyed. For example, only 5% of Germany’s 7,000 square miles is still intact, and the UK has lost 90% of its wetlands over the past 400 years.
Very slowly the wetlands are awakening again to new life. Patches of wispy fog soften the first rays of sunlight that warm the moss carpets and lure the various local residents out from their hiding places. As the black grouse males gather in their arena for their traditional autumn courtship display, an adder slithers languidly through the undergrowth of the bog bilberry shrubs in search of food. Sundews wait for fresh prey to get ensnared by their tentacle- like adhesive glands. The black bog ants have nothing to worry about from these carnivorous plants—quite the opposite: The ants plunder the plants’ sticky traps and snap up two-thirds of their spoils. All of these specialists have become perfectly adapted over the millennia to their inhospitable, nutrient- poor environment. But the real rulers of the raised bog are unassuming plants that grow to around 1 foot tall: peat moss. These bryophytes determine the living conditions for all residents of the wetlands by ensuring the high acid content of the bogs… The bogs are treacherous in-between worlds—not water, not land. Areas of solid ground suddenly alternate with boggy subsoil. The reassuring thing: Although you might sink into it, you will not sink completely because the sludge is more dense than the body and so gives us a boost of buoyancy.
Slowly but incessantly (one meter per millennium), the bog grows and preserves relics of the past in its acidic peat. However, that’s not all: “Wetlands function as the kidneys of our landscapes—they store water and nutrients,” explains freshwater ecologist Dominik Zak. In fact, even in places where the ground appears firm the water content may be greater than 95%. Peat moss is responsible for this. The plants can absorb up to 40 times their weight in water and continue to grow upward while their base dies off due to the lack of an air supply. In this way they become peat and thereby create a stable ground. Undisturbed peatlands also serve as carbon sinks, binding up to 550 billion tons of Earth’s carbon, which exceeds the sequestration capacity of forests. The problem: Wetlands are vanishing 10 times faster today than the rate at Peatlands bind more carbon than all the world’s forests combined
which they spread out during the last Ice Age. For instance, of 7,000 square miles of the bog country in Germany, only 5% is still considered intact.
Can you resuscitate a bog?
This danger was recognized a long time ago and there was a concerted effort to re-flood the dried-out zones. To achieve this the water level must rise until it is just below the surface of the ground. If the perfect level is reached—so that no CO2 escapes— the bright green peat mosses return and the bog will begin to grow anew. As long as the land regularly receives rainwater it can regenerate itself with the help of a handful of specialized plants, thus ensuring—to the delight of residents like the black grouse— the existence of a wonder of nature.
Due to its light weight and the structure of its hooves, this compact sheep can graze in bog country without sinking. This species of butterfly is also closely tied to its boggy habitat because it absorbs the water from moist peat moss. Because of the sha
WHITE POLLED HEATH CRANBERRY BLUE CRANE
Unlike the pit vipers, adders don’t have special heat receptors for tracking prey. But these venomous snakes are very successful in the wetlands and can even be found north of the Arctic Circle. For almost 30 years now these procyonids have been making th
RACCOON SUNDEW ADDER
The pools and ponds of lowland bogs are ideal retreats for moor frogs, because they’ve adapted perfectly to the acidic waters. Their eggs tolerate a record-breaking ph of 4.5— which is unique among amphibians.
The bogs are extreme habitats in which only true specialists can survive.