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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 composed 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, with dissolved tannins from the plant matter giving a distinctive tan colour to bog waters.
Bogs are widely distributed in cold, temperate climes, 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% bog; Achill Island off Ireland is 87% bog. There are extensive bogs in Canada and Alaska (called muskeg), Scotland (called mosses), the Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia (20% boglands), Finland (26%), and northern Germany. There are also bogs in the Falkland Islands. Ombrotrophic wetlands - that is, bogs - are also found in the tropics, with notable areas documented in Kalimantan; these habitats are forested so would be better called swamps. Extensive bogs cover the northern areas of the U.S. states of Minnesota and Michigan, most notably on Isle Royale in Lake Superior. The pocosin of the southeastern United States is like a bog in that it is an acidic wetland but it has its own unusual combination of features. In certain areas such as Ireland and Scotland, coastal bogs are frequently intruded upon by low lying dunes called Machairs.
Virgin boreal acid bogs at Brown's Lake Bog, Ohio. The tree cover is not typical of a bog.Bogs are recognized as a significant habitat type by a number of governmental and conservation agencies. For example, the United Kingdom in its Biodiversity Action Plan establishes bog habitats as a priority for conservation. 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.
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 carbon dioxide, thus causing health and environmental problems. After drying, peat is used as a fuel. 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 Bord na Móna (peat board) was one of the first companies to mechanically harvest peat.
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 mulch. Some distilleries, notably Laphroaig, use peat fires to smoke the barley used in making scotch whisky. More than 90% of the bogs in England have been destroyed.

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Additional Photos by Giorgos Marossis (dim) Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 0 W: 13 N: 511] (3968)
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