Don’t get bogged down – an interesting expression… especially now that I am learning more about wetlands and watersheds. I find it interesting that a natural phenomenon such as a bog has negative connotations. I am delighted to say that I came up with this title all on my own, and yet the text, Wetlands we are using in my class – has a similar comment that I found while researching for this post (Mitsch & Gosselink, 2007 p. 16). The authors remind us that wetlands have often been the subject of negativity through movies such as Swamp Thing or The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Fortunately – through the wonders of science – we are taking more note of the importance of wetlands.
Above are before and after images of a peatland that has been drained and harvested:
Original, drained and deforested tropical peatland in central Sumatra, Indonesia.
Photo credits: Kim Worm Sorensen Accessed 11/29/14 from http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/news/TropicalPeatlands.html
Bogs are incredibly important and, like some other natural resources they are not necessarily renewable. I learned that bogs are a source of peat that is used for fuel and agricultural material. But… it takes hundreds of years to create a bog. Linda Chalker-Scott, Ph.D., Extension Urban Horticulturist and Associate Professor, Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Washington State University published The Myth of Permanent Peatlands (accessed 11/29/14) and reminds us that peat grows about 1/4 inch per year and so – there is no environmentally friendly way to mine peat. In order to harvest peat – a wetland must be drained. Chalker-Scott understands that many societies need to harvest peat for fuel. However, she considers the use of peat in organic gardening – a “luxury” and says there are many alternatives. She states:
“International research on peat alternatives dates back at least 30 years and has identified a plethora of materials whose easy availability, low-cost, and sustainability make them attractive substitutes for peat moss. These materials, alone or in combination, ranging from traditional materials such as composted bark, yard and agricultural wastes, and livestock manures to more current waste products including brewing waste, coconut coir, olive mill waste, pulp and paper sludge, municipal solid waste and sewage sludge, and even foam cubes.” The Myth of Permanent Peatlands (accessed 11/29/14)
Peatlands have many functions including carbon storage, flood mitigation, animal habitat, and water filtration (Peatmoss.com) The Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association / CSPMA says that peatlands are renewable. However, we learned in class that the carbon stored in peat, when disturbed, is released back into the atmosphere releasing greenhouse gases. Wetlands International echos this concern.
One must keep in mind that scientists or ecologists views will often differ from organizations that make money doing what the ecologists feel is bad for the environment. Disagreements such as this are healthy for the environment. Let’s face it – humans will impact their environment. It takes some dissension to maintain a healthy balance between meeting the needs of humans and – preserving nature.