Waterlogged bogs

Bog is the name given to a fairly unusual habitat that forms on the edge of a wetland when plants grow, die and accumulate, forming a dense mat of vegetation on top of the water source.

Bogs are characterized by being waterlogged, very acidic and nutrient-poor plant communities. There are not many plants that are able to withstand these harsh conditions; most of the species found here are uncommon to rare in their overall numbers.

Photo from Mike Kay

Sphagnum moss is the most common plant found in a bog. Other fairly common plants include reeds, heath, wildflowers, cranberries and blueberries. Bogs are also home to a number of carnivorous plants that eat and digest insects and other small invertebrates to supply their nutrient requirements. One such plant is the sundew plant. The dead material on which living plants grow is called peat or peat moss.

Sundew

Photo from Mike Kay

In time, trees can seed into a bog and the site can succeed into a swampland forest, thereby destroying the bog community. In the far north, this is not as much of a problem since permafrost restricts the development of forests in these arctic regions.

Bog communities are mostly found in the north and Arctic areas, where they are often called muskeg. The largest contiguous bog is located in Western Siberia. It is nearly 7 million acres in size (nearly double the size of Maryland). About 26 percent of the land area in Finland and 20 percent of Scotland is covered in bogs.

Photo from Mike Kay

Maryland has precious few acres of bog land. Here, bogs are usually associated with mountainous terrain, although there are bogs found in the Piedmont and Coastal Plains as well. It is estimated that there are less than 200 acres of bogs in Maryland, with an average size of about half an acre.

The smallest and one of the rarest turtles found in Maryland is the bog turtle (Clemmys muhlenbergii). Bog turtles are closely associated with bogs or other "open" wetland communities that have not been colonized by trees. The northern population (including Maryland) of bog turtles has declined nearly 80 percent in the last 30 years. This decline is due to loss and fragmentation of habitat, illegal taking of the turtles for pets, pollution and invasion of invasive species, especially purple loosestrife.

Bog turtle

Photo by Mike Kay

There are a number of conservation organizations actively engaged in protecting the remaining habitat, controlling invasive species, and manipulating the habitat to help ensure that bogs and open wetland habitats are restored and that the bog turtle numbers increase.

Nature Notes for 5/8/2011