A bog is a
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 composed mostly of acidophilic
moss (peat moss or
are a principal component of peat in the far north.
provided entirely by
precipitation, and for this reason bog waters are
termed ombrotrophic (or
cloud-fed), which accounts for their low plant nutrient status. Excess
rainfall outflows, with dissolved tannins from the plant matter giving a
distinctive tan colour to bog waters.
Distribution and extent
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
Lowlands in Russia,
which cover more than
kilometres. Sphagnum bogs were widespread in northern
more than 15 % bog;
Achill Island off
Ireland is 87
% bog. There are extensive bogs in
Finland (26% boglands), and northern
There are also bogs in the
Falkland Islands. Ombrotrophic wetlands - i.e. bogs - are also found in the
tropics, with notable areas documented in
these habitats are forested so would be better called
bogs cover the northern areas of the
most notably on
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,
Leatherleaf, have waxy leaves to help retain moisture. Bogs also offer a
unique environment for animals. For instance,
give a home to the
boghopper beetle and a yellow
fly called the
Some bogs have preserved ancient
oak logs useful in
dendrochronology, and they have yielded extremely well-preserved
with organs, skin, and hair intact, such as
Lindow man, buried there thousands of years ago after apparent
Celtic human sacrifice.
Uses of bogs
A bog is a very early stage in the formation of
coal deposits. In
fact, bogs can catch fire and often sustain long-lasting smouldering blazes,
producing smoke and CO2, thus causing health and environmental
problems. After drying, peat is used as a
More than 20 % 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
Móna (peat board) was one of the first companies to mechanically harvest
The other major use of dried peat is as a
soil amendment (sold as moss peat or sphagnum) to increase the
soil's capacity to retain
moisture and enrich the soil. It is also used as a
use peat fires to smoke the
barley used in
These industrial uses of peat threaten the continued existence of bogs. More
than 90 % of the bogs in England have been destroyed.
lingonberries are grown in bogs.
Sphagnum bogs are also used for sport, but this can be damaging.
Bog snorkelling is popular in England and
Wales and has
even produced the associated sport of
mountain bike bog snorkelling.
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.
The last Sunday in July is
International Bog Day.
Bog is also a
slang word for
Gothic Fiction is commonly set on the moor, an
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
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.