Soil System Sciences

A view on peatlands

Mindaugas Lapele, staff of Dzukja National Park, and attendees of FESP4 during the field trip to the park (Lithuania).

During the last FESP4 (4th Int Meeting on Fire Effects on Soil Properties, Vilnius, Lithuania), participants in the meeting visited the Dzūkija National Park. This park was established in 1991 in the region of Varena (southern Lithuania).

The park extends over approximately 550 km2 along the Nemunas River, near the border between Lithuania and Belarus. The purpose for which it was founded was to protect the vegetation, landscape, ancient villages, historical and cultural monuments, and forests in southern Lithuania.

One of the major vegetation formations of the park is the Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) forest, which is distributed on sandy soils and continental dunes formed during the last glacial periods.

Scots pine forest.

Poorly developed soils on sandy plains under Scots pines.

Another major formation is the bog, which is about 12 km in length and 7 km in width. Bogs and peatlands are generally lake basins of glacial origin. Due to the humid and acid dominant conditions, organic matter accumulates as peat without being decomposed. The Čepkeliai bog reserve is a wetland formed by more than 20 lakes and is partly covered by dwarf and shabby pines. Recurrent fires during dry periods make the expansion of the pine forest on peat difficult.

Bog in the Dzukija National Park.

Slice of Scots pine showing marks of wildfires.

Peatlands occur when organic material deposited exceeds decomposed into a pond or swamp. In this way the lagoon or marsh may end up filled with organic material and substantial portions of the bog lose contact with the water from the springs and ground water so supplied mainly passing rainwater. When this occurs as Sphagnum plants are favored because they are adapted to wet soils, acid and nutrient poor.


This post was also published simultaneously in G-Soil.

Antonio Jordán is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Seville and coordinator of the MED Soil Research Group. Antonio’s research focusses on rainfall-induced soil erosion processes, the effects of wildfires on soil properties and soil degradation in Mediterranean areas. He is an active members of the Soil System Sciences (SSS) Division of the European Geosciences Union (EGU), which coordinates the scientific programme on soil sciences.