Sphagnum Bogs


The Virginia Iris can be found in marshes, wet pinelands, swamps, and wet meadows across the United States and Canada. When we discovered a cluster of wildflowers at this bog in Northern Wisconsin, they were around 4 feet high and looked nothing less than magical. We snapped a picture and continued our trek as the mosquitoes and ticks worked hard to keep up, trying to get a bite of us.


Here’s me, sinking into the sphagnum moss that covered the bog. I lifted my mosquito head-net up for a mere few seconds and they started to swarm again so you bet this picture was taken very quickly. The bogs here were located in the lowlands, and the forested areas that separated them were noticeably on higher ground. Then there were the old logging sites, where piles of wood created a sketchy path through the woods. What I assume were old logging trails are now covered in daisies, baby’s breath, and other small colorful flowers. If I was a bug, that’s the place I would want to be.

A bog doesn’t have a water source. It’s fed primarily by rain and groundwater. Bogs in Wisconsin typically feature carnivorous plants and oxygen-poor water that isn’t suitable for fish. However, in this bog we found a frog, toad, and a neat orange slug. There was also bear poop in the daisy field!

daisy field

We had an opportunity to explain the goal of the project – measuring CO2 over heterogenous terrain – to a nearby landowner. Here were some questions he had, and the answers we gave.

Q: Is there a lot of CO2 and methane in Northern Wisconsin? There aren’t many industries polluting the air out here.

A: We are measuring CO2 from different ecosystems. Lakes don’t absorb much CO2. Forests absorb the most CO2, but the leaves give it off when they die and start to degrade. Wetlands are the second best at sequestering CO2, which they store in peat. Wetlands give off a lot of methane. As do cows.

Q: If there’s so much CO2 in wetlands, is that bad?

A: CO2 isn’t fundamentally bad. Although the climate is warming, it is only increasing incrementally in the atmosphere. Those small increments have a large effect overall. In wetlands, CO2 sequestration is good because it stays in the soil and won’t come out unless you drain the wetland and burn all the peat. Wetlands contain anaerobic water, which is bad for fish because there isn’t enough oxygen to breathe. CO2 in wetlands is good in the sense that it offers climate mitigation. CO2 in our air is bad because beyond a certain point we won’t be able to breathe. There are also other impacts like climate warming.

Q: Is the climate warming? I wish it would get warmer, it’s so cold in Northern Wisconsin.

A: There are still cold regions with climate change. They probably just aren’t as cold as they used to be. Weather refers to short term change whereas climate refers to long term. Finally, climate change results in more extreme weather so freezing cold winters may become more common.

Hope you enjoyed this look into what I’ve been up to this week! Have a great one.

Jess 🙂

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