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Get off the bog!

Since 1840, 99% of lowland raised mire habitat has been destroyed in Lancashire. Mire is a term used for a peat-forming ecosystem. At the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago, depressions left by ice sheets filled with water to make shallow lakes. These were rapidly colonised by reeds and rushes. Decayed plant material and silt then built up in the bottom of the lake. Due to the lack of oxygen this material didn’t decay fully and peat started to form. Sphagnum mosses then colonised the pools. Sphagnum is a remarkable moss: it can absorb more than 8 times its weight in water and releases acid from it’s cell walls. The resulting unique, low nutrient, acidic conditions provide the perfect environment for rare specialist plants such as sundews and bladderworts, which feed on insects.

Today peat is harvested from lowland raised bogs in huge quantities in order to supply the gardening industry. Removal of peat lowers the water table, drying out the bog and destroying the unique habitat that has formed over thousands of years and once they are gone, they are lost forever. Local cutover bogs like Red and Astley Moss can be restored if they have at least one metre depth of peat left and conditions are recreated to encourage sphagnum moss to flourish.

As home composters we are all doing our bit to reduce the demand for peat-based growing media, by making a peat free alternative at no cost to ourselves or the environment. However, in order to protect our remaining bogs we need to be aware that bags of growing media sold in garden centres will contain peat unless it actually states “peat free” on the bag and it is likely that plants are grown in peat unless they are promoted as being “peat free”!

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