Peat Soils

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Peat soils are naturally occurring and have a number of different uses throughout the world. It is used by growers and farmers to aid in growing plants and crops. In some places of the world, it is used as a source of heat. Unfortunately peat soil takes an extremely long time to form, so any that is used today, for whatever reason, will not be replaced in our lifetime. Although this resource is abundant today, it may not be so readily available for future generations

Geography

  • Peat soils are often found in peat bogs which not only provide humans with a diverse resource but also provide a home for many species of animals and birds. Around 60 percent of the world's wetlands are peat, which is roughly about 2 percent of the world's total land mass.

Formation

  • Peat soil is formed when organic materials begin to decompose, but the presence of too much water halts this decaying process. The water deprives the organic materials of oxygen, which is needed to break down organic matter. This partially decomposed material collects as peat soil and is the beginning stage of the formation of coal. Most of the peat bogs that are around today were created when the glaciers of the North and South Poles retreated at the end of the last ice age.

Peat Soil Make Up

  • Peat soil is made up of partially decomposed organic matter, but there are differences in peat soils depending on what material is decaying and how far that decomposition process has progressed. It is made up of organic compounds made up from its surrounding environment. Peat is often found on level areas that allow for the accumulation of water. Some peat soils are very fibrous while others appear more like actual soil, depending on its level of decomposition and its moisture content.

Uses

  • Peat soils are used on a wide scale across the globe. It is used by many countries for different purposes. When peat is compressed, all the water it contains can be squeezed out, leaving the peat dry enough to burn. With its combustible nature it is used as a fuel source in many countries including Finland, Ireland and Scotland. Farmers all over the world add peat to their soil to aid in growing plants and crops. In some countries, peat is used to control the flow of water either by damming a river or diverting a stream.

Environmental Impact of Peat Soils

  • Because peat soil has so many uses for humans, it poses a problem on an environmental level. Peat wetlands take centuries to form, but if the commercial excavation of peat bogs continues, they will soon be in danger of disappearing, along with many organisms which are only found in peat soil. Wetlands are home to thousands of different species of animals and birds, making them an important part of our ecosystem.

References

  • Photo Credit Torfbahn im Nebel image by Ulrich Schwartz from Fotolia.com
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