Posted: Friday 4th November 2016 by MagnificentMires
Bogs are often perceived as brown, boring areas to avoid so as not to get soggy bottoms. But hidden amongst the grasses lie remarkable plants which live in inhospitable environments yet provide vital services to our everyday lives.
As Community Engagement Officer for the new Magnificent Mires project I have been getting to grips with these intriguing, sometimes unloved and unknown places. What I have learnt in a short couple of weeks is that we should value Dartmoor’s blanket bogs, not only for the intrinsic value of nature, but also for their abilities to help society.
If you’ve walked on the high tops of Dartmoor you will have come across sphagnum moss. At first glance? Nothing special. But sphagnum has some secret powers. The moss can hold up to 20 times its dry weight in liquid – meaning that in times of high rainfall it will soak up water. Not only does this alleviate flooding downstream, but clean naturally-filtered supplies are released in times of drought.
This ability for soaking up liquids has not remained unnoticed and throughout history moss has been put to use as nappies, packing material and wound dressings in World War 1 (more about this in future blogs).
To find out more about the services bogs provide, check out the Magnificent Mires webpage (coming soon).
Shades of reds, browns and greens can be seen in the blankets of sphagnum moss, a gorgeous mirror of the colours of Autumn that sweep the valleys.
Blanket bogs are also home to some more sinister plants: carnivorous sundews and butterworts lurk in amongst the mosses and grasses, waiting for unsuspecting insects to get trapped on their sticky leaves.
But not all bogs are in fine health. Past erosion has caused some bogs to start drying out which limits their ability to hold water and reduces their value for wildlife. Erosion is difficult to stop once it has started and large gullies can form. The photo below shows how past management by Dartmoor National Park Authority has helped stop the flow of water and allowed vegetation to start recolonising the bare peat, great news for the bog.
Over the next year I will be adventuring around bogs, bringing people to see this habitat which in my mind is not only beautiful but remarkable in its capabilities; I will be bringing the bogs to the people through displays and ‘bog in boxes’ and I will be starting to help change perceptions so bogs are no longer boring or brown, although they’ll still make your bottoms soggy.
Jasmine Atkinson is the Community Engagement Officer for the Magnificent Mires project. If you are interested in finding out more about the project or how you can get involved, contact Jasmine on firstname.lastname@example.org
The Magnificent Mires project is led by Devon Wildlife Trust in partnership with Dartmoor National Park Authority, Dartmoor Preservation Association and The Duchy of Cornwall. The project is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.
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