Peat Bog Restoration - Part 3/3 - Sphagnum Peat Restoration
Thursday, February 4, 2021 | Ed Bloodnick
In 1991, the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association developed a policy for peat bog development and restoration. Since little information was known about peat bog restoration at the time, a three-year research project was granted to Laval University to determine various restoration methods. As a major peat producer with research personnel, Premier Horticulture actively participated in this project.
After several years of research and trials, a method and procedure for peat bog restoration was developed for the peat industry. Peat bog restoration begins by obstructing the drainage ditches within the bog. This allows water from precipitation to once again flood the peat bog. Once the water table has risen just below the bog surface, live Sphagnum plants are taken from adjacent sites that have been newly opened for harvesting and are brought to the restoration area. There they are spread with a manure spreader and lightly coated with straw to prevent them from drying out (Fig. 2). The best time of year for Sphagnum plant reintroduction is Autumn. After reintroduction, careful attention is given to maintain water levels within the peat bog to insure growth of the new vegetation.
Fig. 2. Site ready for restoration - October 1995.
After several years, different species of Sphagnum can be observed growing in the bog (Fig. 3). These include S. fallax, S. cappillifolium, S. russowi S. fuscum, all of which grow according to the amount of water available (some are true aquatics, others terrestrial). As the Sphagnum takes hold (Fig. 5), it is often mixed with green moss, carnivorous plants like the Pitcher plant and the Round-leaved sundew, leather leaf, Northern bog laurel, small bog cranberry and black spruce.
Fig. 3. Sphagnum moss and other bog plants establishing – September 1997.
Fig. 4. Sphagnum moss growing under straw.
Fig. 5. Sphagnum moss colony well established – June 1998.
For Premier Tech Horticulture the first implementation of large-scale restoration began in 1995. To date, 42 hectares (103 acres) of previously harvested peat areas are currently in restoration in Quebec. Another 25 hectares (61 acres) are dedicated to ongoing research. In 1999, Premier Tech Horticulture’s restoration efforts expanded westward for a peat bog in Saskatchewan. In all, we have had good results for establishment of Sphagnum and other bog plants at these sites. The future looks promising considering the complexity and the amount of time required in returning peatlands to functioning ecosystems (Fig. 6).
Fig. 6. Original restoration site initiated in 1991. Notice bog plant establishment in the background. Premier Tech.
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Sphagnum peat moss is one of the most important ingredients for soilless media, however many questions have been raised about it. Where does it come from? How much is there? How long will it last?
This second part of the three-part series will discuss harvesting of Sphagnum peat moss.
For many years, sustainable peatland management and the protection of ecosystems such as its sphagnum peat moss harvesting sites have been firm commitments at Premier Tech Horticulture. To preserve the vitality of those areas for many generations still, Premier Tech Horticulture actively participates in the restoration of peat bogs.