Introduction

Peatlands, or mires as they are sometimes called, are characterized by often deep accumulations of incompletely decomposed organic material, or peat. Peat accumulates when carbon that is sequestered in plant biomass through the process of photosynthesis exceeds the long-term loss of this carbon to the atmosphere via decomposition plus losses of carbon dissolved in water removed from the peatland through hydrological flow. Globally, peatlands contain about 30% of the world's terrestrial soil carbon, while covering only about 3-4% of the Earth's surface, and as such their carbon storage is considerably greater than their land surface area might indicate. Peatlands, in general, are relatively species poor when compared to upland communities in the same geographic region. However, due to the specialized environmental conditions often associated with peatlands, plants, and animals found only in these ecosystems are sometimes present. Peatlands are especially known for the presence of carnivorous plants such as Sarracenia and Drosera and for the occurrence of a large number of species of peat mosses (the genus Sphagnum).

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