9.1 Bogs worldwide
The Earth’s earliest landscapes
Bogs are created where there are areas of surplus water. Here rain must fall more quickly than it can evaporate. This is primarily the case in cooler regions. Hence bogs can occur throughout the world, but particularly in the rainy regions of the northern part of the globe and in tropical areas. There are around 4,000,000 km2 of bog areas, of which around 80% are still in a quasi-natural state. That said, around 30% of the carbon dioxide in the earth is stored in this 3% of the Earth’s surface. These natural bogs primarily lie in the uninhabited regions of Russia and Canada. In more highly inhabited regions scarcely any bogs have been left intact. Most of all peat extraction and the drying up of boggy areas to turn them into agricultural land is reducing the total area of bogs. The transformed areas release three gigatons of CO2 per year. Hence a mere 0.6% of the surface of the land is responsible for 10% of all the CO2-emissions produced by human beings.
Bogs in Europe
Europe once contained 282,000 km2 of bogs. Nowadays only around 1.500 km2 of this remain in its original state.
Areas of bog are dried out and fertilised for agricultural and forestry purposes. They therefore release a disproportionate amount of CO2. As far as CO2 emissions are concerned Europe lies in second place behind Indonesia and before Russia and Canada, which have considerably larger areas of bogs.
Bogs in Germany
Germany has around 15,000 km2 of bog areas. The majority of these can be found in rainy coastal areas, in alpine uplands and in the top sections of highlands. 95% of these areas have been dried out for agricultural and forestry purposes. The CO2 that has been released from these measures makes up a good 5% of German greenhouse gas emissions. This means that dried-out bogs are the largest source of greenhouse gas outside the energy sector.
Bogs in the Baltic area
Despite increasing political awareness that bogs have to be protected, there is still a high demand for cheap garden earth, of which increasingly larger amounts are being purchased in the Baltic area. This means that, from our point of view, bog destruction is moving eastwards. Large areas of mechanical bog extraction for fuel peat, fertiliser peat and plant substrates can be clearly identified on satellite pictures.
Bogs in Indonesia
Indonesiahas the third-largest area of bogs in the world. Rich rainforests grow on them and they are the home of orang-utans, Sumatra Tigers and a huge amount of other flora and fauna.
But the bogs of Indonesia are rapidly disappearing on account of the construction of oil palm plantations. Hence gigantic reservoirs of water and carbon are being destroyed.
Palm oil is now the most important vegetable oil in the world. It is the raw material for organic diesel and can be found in almost every second product in supermarkets.
Bogs in Russia
Widespread forest fires are continually occurring in Russia and these also set fire to dried-up bogs. When peat is burnt millions of tonnes of CO2 are released within a short period of time. In addition this produces huge amounts of fine dust that further enforce the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere.
The fires occur during unusually hot summers in bogs that are usually left untended after they have been dried up and dug out industrially. Once peat catches fire it is very difficult to quench, because it also burns beneath the ground and this can create glow nests. This is a further important reason to re-wet bogs after they have been exploited for industrial purposes, and restore them to as quasi-natural a state as possible.