What are bogs?
Bogs are a type of peatland. Peatlands have many names – bogs, mosses, mires, fens. They are all formed on peat; a type of soil which is created when plants die in waterlogged conditions and so don’t rot down.
In the UK, we have two main types of bog habitat:
But we mustn’t forget about a third type of peatland habitat in the UK too!
Where are bogs found?
Bogs and peatlands are found in 180 countries worldwide and span across all continents, from naturally forested peatlands in Europe and tropical peat swamp forests in South East Asia, to vast permafrost areas of Russia and Canada, and high mountain peatlands of the Andes and Himalayas.
The UK is one of the world’s top ten countries in terms of peatland area, covering 2 million hectares – space enough to hold 1.6 million cricket matches at once – they are globally important, with as much as 13% of the world’s blanket bog formed in the cool, wet climate found here.. 60% of the UK’s bog habitat is in Scotland.
The UK’s bogs store over three billion tonnes of carbon, around the same amount as all of the forests in the UK, Germany and France added together!
What is peat?
Peat is a type of soil that forms from the remains of plants in wet, waterlogged conditions. Because it doesn’t rot (or does so very, very slowly) the layers of peat build up and can be very deep. In fact, peat soils typically only accumulate at around 1mm every year so 1m of peat can take up to 1000 years to form! Some of our peatlands in the UK are up to 12m deep and so these ecosystems can be really old!
Why are bogs important?
Bogs are not only beautiful, dramatic landscapes, full of inspiring wildlife, but also provide us with some very useful services, vital to our own survival. Their protection is necessary to avoid adverse economic and environmental impacts. Some key services that bogs provide include:
What are some of the problems and threats faced by our bogs?
Peatlands are in trouble. Globally, 25% of peatlands have been destroyed, whilst here in the UK at least 80% are believed to be damaged, despite the majority being identified as of international importance under EU wildlife legislation. The damage comes from a range of pressures, some of which are historic issues which continue to damage our peatlands.
What is being done to help repair the damage to UK bogs?
But there is good news! Work is underway to repair our bogs. Restoration activities which help to reverse the effects of damage are proving successful in setting our bogs on
the pathway to health again. Activities like introducing the correct vegetation back onto areas of bare peat soil and blocking drainage ditches to re-wet the bogs are being widely used. It can cost a lot of money but it is a wise investment- restoring the valuable services that our healthy bogs provide such as carbon capture and storage, a habitat for rare wildlife and helping to support provision of clean drinking water is essential in helping the UK to be more resilient to future climate change.
Why not have a look at our online, interactive map to see photos and find out more about some of the peatland restoration projects taking place in your local area?
What can I do to help make a difference?
- Find your local bog and visit it to see why it’s so special! Have a look at our Bog Day events page for inspiration.
- Follow the Countryside Code (in England and Wales) or the Outdoor Access Code (in Scotland) when out-and-about on your local bog. Stick to the path to help prevent eroding the peat soil, keep dogs on a lead to avoid disturbing local wildlife and livestock and take action to help prevent devastating wildfires on our bogs.
- Avoid buying peat compost or plants grown in peat soil. Check with your local garden centre to see if their potted plants are in peat; if yes, ask them to supply their plants in peat-free compost. Some advice on peat composts and peat-free gardening is available here.