is this guy called 'peat'? by
M. Finlayson and M. Moser
a dark fibrous material created when 'decomposition fails to keep
pace with the production of organic matter'. It is the first stage
of transformation of plant matter into coal. Although peat is created
under specific conditions (waterlogging, lack of oxygen or nutrients,
high acidity or low temperatures), peat can be found in many types
of wetlands. Marshes, swamps, floodplains and coastal wetlands may
contain peat, however, where the peat deposits are greater than
300-400mm in depth, a distinctive variety of ecosystems are created.
Known collectively as 'mires' these complex ecosystems (which include
bogs and fens) are very susceptible to even the slightest change
in hydrological regime, vegetation cover or grazing.
where rain and snow directly feed an already high watertable. This
results in waterlogged soil with reduced oxygen levels. Rainfall
leaches nutrients from the soil, and acid is produced as the organic
matter continues to slowly ferment. Bogs can thus be characterised
by acid-loving vegetation. Of particular importance are the Sphagnum
bog mosses which can hold more than ten times their dry weight of
on the other hand, are fed by ground water or by interior drainage
into hollows (rather than by precipitation). These wetlands are
higher in nutrient content than bogs, but are still able to produce
peat. Their greater nutrient content and lower acidity means that
fens support very different vegetation from bogs. Luxuriant and
species-rich covers of reeds, sedges and herbs are not uncommon.
and condensed from: Finlayson, M and Moser, M. Wetlands. International
Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau (IWRB), 1991 and reprinted
in Wetlands Australia, no. 6, July 1997, p. 7.