Ptyxis Ecology - Our Botany Blog

Saturday, 19 January 2008

There's something in the bog!

It still always amazes me just how mind-boggling the diversity of wild plants and animals is and how little any one person can ever hope to learn about it. Have a look at these pictures of testate amobae taken by Chris Carter from blanket bog on the watershed between Weardale and Allendale.

I met Chris on a training course last year and as he knew I was interested in Sphagnum he asked me to send him some samples so that he could have a look at what was living in the water amongst the Sphagnum. Chris was particularly interested to see what desmids there were, but he mainly found amobae in the samples I sent him as the samples were mainly from the drier bits of the bog.

Here is a good link on desmids

and here's one on testate amobae

It was really difficult to choose only a few of Chris's photos but here are some of my favourites...

Meet Arcella arenaria...

What has this Nebella swallowed?

You wouldn't want to meet Euglypha compressa on your way home on a dark night!

Later that evening... Nebella again. I think it had too much kebab. Or maybe it was the fresh air?


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Monday, 14 January 2008

North Pennines Sphagna project

Sphagnum subnitens

The Sphagna research project involves recording vascular plants, bryophytes and macrolichens, together with a range of environmental variables, in 200 quadrats in randomly selected upland one km squares. The project aims to investigate the ecological niches occupied by species of Sphagnum that occur in blanket bog and wet heath in the North Pennines. Results will be applied to hone upland condition assessment methodologies used in the North Pennines and may generate hypotheses for future work. This project is part of a suite of research funded by the Peatscapes Project. Peatscapes aims to conserve and enhance the internationally important peatland resource within the North Pennines (see below for more about Peatscapes).

Bog pool in Novermber!

As the field work was conducted in November, these photos are not very colourful!!

Version of M19 heather/hare’s-tail cottongrass blanket mire with canes marking quadrat extent

Observations so far, from 90 quadrats completed, include:

We anticipated that species such as Sphagnum subnitens (pictured above) Sphagnum tenellum and Sphagnum compactum may be associated with blanket bog in poor or damaged condition in the North Pennines and so would be useful as negative indicator species. It is surprising that, so far, two of these species were found rarely and Sphagnum compactum was not found at all.

Overall more of the blanket bog in the North Pennines appears to be in reasonably good condition (i.e. with active peat formation) than we had anticipated.

The predominant type of blanket bog vegetation in the North Pennines AONB is the ‘M19heather/hare’s-tail cottongrass blanket mire’ community. Much of this vegetation, which is apparently in good condition, is quite species-poor and often has a low cover of Sphagnum. Heather Calluna vulgaris and hare’s-tail cottongrass Eriophorum vaginatum are often the dominant plants and, where they are very abundant, these species allow little space for other bog species to coexist with them.

Areas that have been ‘damaged’ in some way (e.g. by burning or erosion) can sometimes be locally relatively species-rich. Many of the liverwort species found tend to grow in these areas more frequently than in more ‘intact’ areas of bog. This may be because areas of shorter vegetation or bare peat allow more opportunity for a wider range of species to coexist until the heather and cottongrass take over.

These observations pose some interesting questions including:

Is some form of disturbance desirable in order to maintain high species diversity in M19 blanket bog?

Or, is it desirable, for other environmental reasons, to avoid disturbance and so aim to maintain a lower species-diversity?

Like a lot of scientific research, I think that this project will raise many more questions than it answers! You can read more about Peatscapes here: