Header Ads

Breaking News

For peat’s sake: how to protect bogs | Alys Fowler | Life and style


In a shallow pool amid a mossy landscape is a trap, a tiny triggered vacuum that sucks in unexpected prey at great speed, absorbs what it needs, then ejects the empty husk of its victim. If you’ve sunk and splashed your way through a peat bog in summer, you may have caught a glimpse of the plant’s more alluring feature, the showy yellow flowers that wave above the water.

Bladderworts are free-floating aquatic plants that sink back in winter to tight buds, washed along in the currents of wilder weather. They are not alone in their bizarre eating habits. There are sundews whose hundreds of pin-shaped tentacles wrap their sticky digestive juices around their prey, and butterworts, which possess the strongest glue in nature to trap hapless insects wandering over them, among the heathers and layers of sphagnum moss that make up peatland.

Peat bogs are incredible ancient landscapes; layers of dead plants, only partially decomposed due to the anaerobic conditions, turn into a spongy black soil. A single bog can be more than 1,000 years old, and it takes that time again to develop a deposit of a metre or so of new peat. It’s renewable, but not on a timescale we understand.





Great Sundew



Great sundew, whose pin-shaped tentacles wrap sticky digestive juices around prey. Photograph: Getty Images

With nutrients in short supply, everything here grows very slowly; it takes sphagnum moss a quarter of a century to grow 2.5cm. Those carnivorous plants grab at any nutrients they can to stay alive, hence trapping insects to feed themselves.

Peatlands are considered the most efficient carbon sinks on Earth. The plants that grow in them capture the carbon released by the peat, maintaining an equilibrium that we cannot afford to lose. Extracted and degraded peat bogs do the opposite: they release a lot of carbon dioxide. It goes without saying that we can’t afford to destroy them while the world burns.





Common butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris), a perennial carnivorous plant.



Butterworts have super-strong insect-trapping glue. Photograph: Getty Images

About 10 years ago, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) promised that it would phase out peat use in amateur horticulture by 2020. This was a voluntary scheme, and it’s predictably failed. Walk into nearly any garden centre and there’s plenty of peat on offer, from composts to growing media for houseplants, bedding plants and so on.

Peat use in horticulture is by no means the only issue: there’s burning peat for fuel, and the vast quantities used in mushroom growing. But this is the bit you can influence. Stop buying peat-based compost (the ingredients are on the back), buy plants from the many good folk who already grow peat-free, and ask your local garden centre to commit to being #peatfree. You have power – use it to preserve peat.

Source link

No comments