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Islands of long-hidden treasures 1.2

Where can we find peat bogs?

Peatlands are widespread in all climatic zones. They are most abundant in the boreal and temperate regions of the northern hemisphere but also occur in the subtropics and tropics. The highest concentrations of peatlands are located in Canada, Alaska, northern Europe, western Siberia, south-east Asia, and the Amazon. Together they cover over four million square kilometers, equivalent to less than three percent of the Earth’s landmass, and hold about 70 percent of freshwater.

Peatlands of the North

In the cool and temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, peatlands form in climatic regimes with high rainfall and low temperatures. The vegetation here consists mainly of mosses, especially peat mosses (genus Sphagnum), various species of sedges and shrubs of the heath family, which include many species of the genus Vaccinium.

The communities of organisms that inhabit this type of peatland have a characteristic composition. The so-called indicator species, i.e., those whose presence indicates the preservation of peatland biotopes, include plants and animals such as Sphagnum austinii and Saxifraga hirculus, the snail Vertigo geyeri, the butterfly Coenonympha tullia or the bird Lagopus lagopus. Small trees such as dwarf birch (Betula nana) are also common.

Tropical peat bogs

In tropical regions, peat forms in places with a lot of rain and high temperatures. It is often found in lowlands under rainforests but also in mountains or under mangroves. The vegetation of tropical peatlands is based on graminoids (plants similar to grasses but from different families) and woody plants. The composition of the communities varies according to geographical location and local climatic conditions and is often unique. Indicator species differ by region and include, for example, Mauritia flexuosa in South America and Raphia in equatorial Africa.