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Bog HELPR: Bog History, Ecosystem status and Land-use for Peatland Restoration in Ohio

Currently, human impacts on peatland ecosystems in Ohio have left them in a perilous state; only 2% of Ohio’s peat bogs remain. The Ohio WRC funded Professor Matthew Davies and his team at the Ohio State University to collate detailed data on the current and historic spatial distribution of peat bogs in Ohio and combine this data with a ground survey to assess the bogs ecological condition. Dr. Davies research is based on the increasing recognition that restoration of wetland ecosystems can play an important role in mitigating the effects of diffuse agricultural pollution in watersheds and increasing catchment resilience in the face of climate change. There can, however, be significant trade-offs inherent in restoration, not least the potential impacts on greenhouse gas emissions.

Peatland ecosystems in Ohio are of significant conservation concern as, in addition to being degraded or destroyed during land-use conversion, the remaining systems are at the limits of their climatic range and have been impacted by drainage, disturbance, and nutrient inputs from surrounding agriculture. Peat stratigraphy is related to climatic and geomorphological changes at a few sites; bog distribution is related to glaciation patterns; vegetation zonation is related to variations in water level and chemistry in intact basin-type bogs; and that degradation of tamarack bogs is driven by interactions between ditching and drainage, invasive species, and deciduous tree encroachment. Developing a peatland restoration agenda will require better knowledge of Ohio’s existing peatland resource and the links between historical disturbance, land-use and the ecological structure of these sites.
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