To celebrate the 20th International Bog Day on Sunday 31st of July, we are highlighting some of the amazing species that call the beautiful bog their home, and why they are such important habitats to preserve. They may have a bit of a bad reputation, but bogs are important ecological sites sustaining a unique array of species.
Adaptations to a nutrient-poor habitat
Bogs are often low oxygen, high carbon dioxide environments leading to acidic conditions. High acidity prevents nutrients being available to plants in a useful form and this has led to plants turning to more grisly methods to get the nutrients they need. These plants are able to break down and absorb nitrogen and other nutrients from animals, usually invertebrates such as insects. The sundew (Drosera anglica) lures insect prey to sweet sticky secretions on tentacle-like leaves. When an insect such as this common blue damselfly becomes trapped, the leaves slowly curl up and the sundew secretes enzymes which then digest the helpless insect.
Also found in boggy areas, the fanged pitcher plant (Nepenthes bicalcarata) produces nectar which attracts invertebrates to the brim of its pitcher. When stepping on the slippery, waxy surface the invertebrates will often fall into the depths of the pitcher. Unable to escape, they drown in the pitcher fluid and their bodies are broken down by digestive enzymes.
The common butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris) is yet another example of a carnivorous boggy plant, attracting insects to its leaves with a sticky sweet substance. Once trapped, the leaf slowly curls up and the insect is digested.
The Critically Endangered bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) inhabits swamps, sphagnum bogs and marshy meadows of the eastern United States. Finding safety on muddy ground, the bog turtle will burrow into the mud when alarmed. Perhaps this species is the inspiration behind the sewer-dwelling Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!
Wealth of colour
Contrary to popular belief, bogs aren’t dull and dreary. Prevalent on peat bogs, sphagnum mosses provide a carpet of colour. For example the Baltic bog moss (Sphagnum balticum) can form large floating mats of green and orange. The bog asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum) is another vibrant bog-dwelling plant. It has bright yellow star-like flowers which were once used as a hair dye. The bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) can be found throughout most of Europe, with it’s delicate white flower brightening boggy areas.
So why is there a need for an International Bog Day? Boggy habitats are becoming rarer and rarer as they are increasingly being drained, dredged, filled or flooded, for urban development, agriculture, and pond and reservoir construction. Bogs are an important habitat for many specialised species, and they certainly deserve protecting and a day of recognition.
Eleanor Sans and Lauren Pascoe, ARKive Media Researchers