Louisiana Wetlands

Definition of Bogs

Bogs are one of North America's most distinctive kinds of wetlands. They are characterized by spongy peat deposits, acidic waters, and a floor covered by a thick carpet of sphagnum moss. Bogs receive all or most of their water from precipitation rather than from runoff, groundwater or streams. As a result, bogs are low in the nutrients needed for plant growth, a condition that is enhanced by acid forming peat mosses. There are two primary ways that a bog can develop: bogs can form as sphagnum moss grows over a lake or pond and slowly fills it, or bogs can form as sphagnum moss blankets dry land and prevents water from leaving the surface. Over time, many feet of acidic peat deposits build up in bogs of either origin. The unique and demanding physical and chemical characteristics of bogs result in the presence of plant and animal communities that demonstrate many special adaptations to low nutrient levels, waterlogged conditions, and acidic waters, such as carnivorous plants.

Types of Bogs

Northern Bogs

Northern bogs are generally associated with low temperatures and short growing seasons where ample precipitation and high humidity cause excessive moisture to accumulate. Therefore, most bogs in the United States are found in the northern states. Northern bogs often form in old glacial lakes. They may have either considerable amounts of open water surrounded by floating vegetation or vegetation may have completely filled the lake.

The sphagnum peats of northern bogs cause especially acidic waters. The result is a wetland ecosystem with a very specialized and unique flora and fauna that can grow in these conditions called acidophiles.

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