I can't believe I'm being paid to do this. I just wish I had a camera to record some of it. I mean, really, how many people are lucky enough to get paid to camp and hike through Nova Scotia?
Ironically, I was travelling around to some of my study sites when this story came on CBC--it's a feature on how harvesting peat from Ontario and Newfoundland could replace coal burning for power.
From Peat Resources Ltd's website:
In Europe, former harvested peat bogs have been converted to agricultural
uses, returned to their original state or reforested, providing a sustainable
carbon sink. In Sweden and Finland, former acidic peat bogs have been converted
to more productive wetlands with a diverse variety of flora and fauna.
CBC made the point too that local sources of peat could provide local jobs and a resulting boost to economies in impoverished rural and northern communities. And certainly, most people I've spoken with believe bogs to be wasted land.
There is value, I think, to peatlands. For one thing, there are studies suggesting that peatlands can act as isolated, protected habitat islands on a broader changing landscape--for instance, forestry companies are unlikely to bother with the stunted trees.
As a result of this, these peatlands are incredible reservoirs of history. I've seen records of peat cores that contained 8000 years of habitat information. Pollen, an important indicator of climate, is also contained in them.
Finally, the assemblages of flora and fauna in these areas are so unique. The pH can push 3.50 (about the same acidity as orange juice), there are carnivorous plants, and the trees are so stunted that they can be 100 years old and only two inches in diameter.
I don't know what to think. But I sure as hell know that there is no way that a 8000 year old bog can be restored to it's original state after all the peat has been taken out.