Peat Bog, Vosges Mountains, France

Peat (turf) is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter that is unique to natural areas called peatlands or mires. The peatland ecosystem is the most efficient carbon sink on the planet because peatland plants capture the CO2 which is naturally released from the peat maintaining an equilibrium. In natural peatlands the “annual rate of biomass production is greater than the rate of decomposition” but it takes “thousands of years for peatlands to develop the deposits of 1.5 to 2.3 m, which is the average depth of the boreal peatlands”. One of the most common components is Sphagnum moss, although many other plants can contribute. Soils that contain mostly peat are known as a histosol. Peat forms in wetland conditions, where flooding obstructs flows of oxygen from the atmosphere, slowing rates of decomposition.

Peatlands, also known as mires, particularly bogs, are the most important source of peat, but other less common wetland types also deposit peat, including fens, pocosins, and peat swamp forests. Other words for lands dominated by peat include moors, or muskegs. Landscapes covered in peat also have specific kinds of plants, particularly Sphagnum moss, Ericaceous shrubs, and sedges (see bog for more information on this aspect of peat). Since organic matter accumulates over thousands of years, peat deposits also provide records of past vegetation and climates stored in plant remains, particularly pollen. Hence they allow humans to reconstruct past environments and changes in human land use.

Peat is harvested as an important source of fuel in certain parts of the world. By volume, there are about 4 trillion m³ of peat in the world covering a total of around 2% of global land area (about 3 million km²), containing about 8 billion terajoules of energy. Over time, the formation of peat is often the first step in the geological formation of other fossil fuels such as coal, particularly low grade coal such as lignite.

Depending on the agency, peat is not generally regarded as a renewable source of energy, as its extraction rate in industrialized countries far exceeds its slow regrowth rate of 1mm per year,[8] and as it is also reported that peat regrowth takes place only in 30-40% of peatlands. Because of this, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and another organization affiliated with the United Nations classifies peat as a fossil fuel. However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has begun to classify peat as a “slow-renewable” fuel. This is also the classification used by many in the peat industry.

At 106 g CO2/MJ, the carbon dioxide emission intensity of peat is higher than that of coal (at 94.6 g CO2/MJ) and natural gas (at 56.1) (IPCC).

A bog is a mire that accumulates peat, a deposit of dead plant material—often mosses, and in a majority of cases, sphagnum moss.It is one of the four main types of wetlands. Other names for bogs include mire, quagmire and muskeg; alkaline mires are called fens. They are frequently covered in ericaceous shrubs rooted in the sphagnum moss and peat. The gradual accumulation of decayed plant material in a bog functions as a carbon sink.

Bogs occur where the water at the ground surface is acidic and low in nutrients. In some cases, the water is derived entirely from precipitation, in which case they are termed ombrotrophic (rain-fed). Water flowing out of bogs has a characteristic brown colour, which comes from dissolved peat tannins. In general, the low fertility and cool climate results in relatively slow plant growth, but decay is even slower owing to the saturated soil. Hence peat accumulates. Large areas of landscape can be covered many metres deep in peat.

Bogs have distinctive assemblages of plant and animal species and are of high importance for biodiversity, particularly in landscapes that are otherwise settled and farmed.Peat fires have been responsible for some large public health disasters, including the 1997 Southeast Asian haze.

Peat Bog, Vosges Mountains, France

The Vosges , also called the Vosges Mountains, are a range of low mountains in eastern France, near its border with Germany. Together with the Palatine Forest to the north on the German side of the border, they form a single geomorphological unit and low mountain range of around 8,000 square kilometres (3,100 sq mi) in area, which runs in a north-northeast direction from the Burgundian Gate (the Belfort–Ronchamp–Lure line) to the Börrstadt Basin (the Winnweiler–Börrstadt–Göllheim line) and which forms the western boundary of the Upper Rhine Plain. The Grand Ballon is their highest peak at 1424 m, followed by the Storkenkopf (1366 m) and the Hohneck (1364 m).

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