Peat is a partially decayed organic matter laid down in anaerobic, or lacking oxygen, conditions in wetlands. Peat forms when plant material, usually in marshy areas, is inhibited from decaying fully by acidic conditions. It is composed mainly of peat moss or sphagnum, but also includes trees, grasses, and other marshland vegetation. It also includes many other types of organic remains such as fungi, insects, pollen, and on occasion dead animals. Peat formed in very wet conditions will grow considerably faster and therefore will be less decomposed than that in drier places. This property lets scientists use peat as an indicator of changes in climates.
Types of Peatland
There are six basic types of peatlands, blanket mires are rain fed peatlands generally one to three meters deep. Many of the peatlands in the United Kingdom are of this type, blanket mires usually develop in cool climates with small seasonal temperature changes and about one meter of rainfall every year.
Raised Mires are in the lowland areas of Northern Europe and the former USSR, North America and parts of the southern hemisphere, they are rainfed and potentially deep.
String Mires are flat or concave peatlands with a string-like pattern of hummocks, they are found mostly in northern Scandinavia but also occur in North America and northern Britain.
Palsa Mires are characterized by high mounds, each with a permanently frozen core, and wet depressions between the mounds. These types are found in the former USSR, Canada, and parts of Scandinavia.
Peat Swamps include both rain and ground water fed types. They are found in tropical regions with high rainfall.
Characteristics and Uses
Peat is soft and easily compressed. Under pressure, water in the peat is forced out. Upon drying, peat can be used as a fuel, in fact, peat is the earliest stage in the formation of coal. Peat is traditionally used for cooking and domestic heating in many countries where trees are... [continues]
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