Welcome to the Wetland Communities section of the Virtual Walk in the Forest Tour! Here we will explore how wetlands are a diverse type of ecosystem with many different communities. Search each example community to see what components of the ecosystem are clues that we are in a wetland environment. This community is a bog wetland.
What does the field journal tell you about this environment? The field journal shows us that the water table is medium to low in this environment. It will change a small amount depending on the season, but will always be present. We can see that this is limiting how deep the roots of the trees are able to reach, and because of this the trees are short. This system is low in nutrients from slow decomposition. This helps us decide that we are located in a bog wetland.
This plant community needs wet soil and saturated peat or ground, but also an environment that is low in nutrients. Species Shown: (1) Black spruce (or *Picea mariana*), (2) Cloudberry (or *Rubus chamaemorus*), (3) Labrador tea (or *Rhododendron groenlandicum*), (4) Reindeer Lichen (or *Cladonia rangiferina*). Where can you see these species in this environment?
How would this plant community be useful to the animals that live in this environment? Peatlands are an important ecosystem for Boreal Woodland Caribou (*Rangifer tarandus caribou*), because they feed on the lichens that grow in these environments. Photo Credits: Caroline FranklinFen Peatland Marsh Wetland
Bog wetland – with Dr. Bin Xu This is a boreal bog, a very unique wetland ecosystem. Anywhere you look in this video, there is no presence of open water that you typically find in other types of wetland. Although there is no visible water anywhere, bogs are still classified as wetland. The fluctuating water table is usually within the top 20 to 40 centimeters from the ground surface. The mosses themselves hold a lot of water. The rooting zone is saturated, at least for part of the growing season, as the availability of oxygen declines with increasing peat depth in the soil profile. If you look to the ground, you will see a cover of brownish vegetation called sphagnum mosses. If you ever step on sphagnum mosses, they feel very sponge-like. These simple land plants are an important part in the boreal peatland ecosystem. Sphagnum mosses can hold many times their weight and water between their tiny branches. They are very good at retaining water and can release acidic compounds into the environment, and therefore acidify the soil. If you measure the pH of bog soil, it's as acidic or even more acidic than our stomach fluid. It is the combination of the unique sphagnum mosses and the chemical environment that they create that shapes the bog ecosystem. You can think of the ground layer mosses as little bioengineers that shape their surroundings. Everything that grows in the bog along with the mosses is highly adaptive to their environment. Bogs have low species diversity. As you can see here, the only abundant tree species is the black spruce. Close to the ground, there are some small woody shrubs called lingonberry and Labrador tea. Among the mossy mounds, there is a broad-leaf herbaceous plant called cloudberry. In very dry areas within the bog, there are lichens which appear grayish-white in this video. Plants growing in bogs rely on nutrients contained in precipitation in the form of rain and snow. Therefore, bogs are generally considered low in nutrient availability. Because of this and the low temperature within the saturated soil, decomposition is very slow. It is the imbalance between plant growth and microbiome decomposition that has led to the formation of what we call peat over time.