Organic matter found in bogs and formed by the incomplete decomposition of plants such as sphagnum moss. Northern Asia, Canada, Finland, Ireland, and other places have large deposits, which have been dried and used as fuel from ancient times. Peat can also be used as a soil additive.
Peat bogs began to be formed when glaciers retreated, about 9,000 years ago. They grow at the rate of only a millimetre a year, and large-scale digging can result in destruction both of the bog and of specialized plants growing there. The destruction of peat bogs is responsible for diminishing fish stocks in coastal waters; the run-off from the peatlands carries high concentrations of iron, which affects the growth of the plankton on which the fish feed.
Approximately 60% of the world's wetlands are peat. In May 1999 the Ramsar Convention on the Conservation of Wetlands approved a peatlands action plan that should have a major impact on the conservation of peat bogs.
In 1999, only 6% of UK peat bogs were undamaged by peat extraction for sale at garden centres. Half of UK peat comes from just three sites (Wedholme Flow, Hatfield Moor, and Thorne Moor), all of which are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).
In 1999 there were only 6,270 ha/15,490 acres of untouched raised bog remaining in the UK, 3,000 ha/7,413 acres being in Scotland.
A number of ancient corpses, thought to have been the result of ritual murders, have been found preserved in peat bogs, mainly in Scandinavia. In 1984, Lindow Man, dating from about 500 BC, was found in mainland Britain, near Wilmslow, Cheshire.
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