I photograph the plants I find in a bog.

 "There's something magic about it,"

says Jim Murphy. I’d have to agree. Murphy lives in Kilkishen, Ireland. He burns turf as fuel to heat his home.

What’s turf? Turf is a material made up of decaying plants. It is also called peat. In Ireland, peat comes from raised or blanket bogs. These cover 20 percent of the country. I’m Emily Toner, a soil geographer. I study bogs.

A bog is a wetland made from water and plants. A healthy bog adds one meter of soil every one thousand years. It is a rich and acidic soil.

Walking on a bog feels like “walking on water.” That’s because bogs hold water. Sphagnum moss in bogs holds up to 20 times its weight in water.

Bogs hold more than just plants and water. They also absorb carbon dioxide from the air. This reduces the greenhouse effect on Earth.

How? Carbon dioxide traps heat. Too much of this greenhouse gas can cause Earth’s temperatures to rise.

This is a bouquet of bog mosses I collected from one bog.

a close-up look at sphagnum moss

Storing Carbon

Bogs trap carbon and keep it in place. That helps keep Earth’s temperatures steady. That’s why wetlands are called carbon sinks. They store twice the carbon that’s held in forests.

Throughout history, people in Ireland have relied on bogs for survival. Wild berries and other plants can provide food. Sphagnum moss was once used to make bandages for wounds. And peat cut into bricks to burn as fuel is still a widely used resource.

Sadly, most of Ireland’s bogs have shrunk. People drain the land and use it for other purposes, such as farming.





Irish Sea

Where the Bogs Are


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