Monitoring the moss

Flanders Moss NNR

Flanders Moss is one of the wettest bogs around thanks to the successful restoration of much of the damaged peatland. However, there are still parts of the moss that are considered to be degraded bog habitat as a result of historical peat clearing and ditching and draining the bog. We monitor the condition of the bog every 6 years to assess the state of the habitat and luckily for me, 2020 is one of those years so I am able to take part. By the end of the monitoring process we may even be able to upgrade the designation of some of the degraded bog habitat as it has become much wetter since it was last monitored.

The monitoring process involves traipsing across the whole bog and looking at plants contained within invisible squares, called quadrats, as you go. The reserve covers an area the size of more than 2,000 football pitches and is full of hidden water-filled ditches so monitoring the bog is no mean feat and can take several days. But the NNR team (and Gavin our Area Officer) are up to the challenge!

Inside the quadrats we are looking at how much of the square is covered by certain bog specialists, such as cotton grass and various species of sphagnum moss. We also look to see if any rare bog species are present, like cranberries and sundew. Once you know what you’re looking for you can whizz through the squares pretty quickly, it’s travelling between them that can take some time.

Last week we tackled one of the wettest parts of the bog and whilst moving between quadrats I had an unfortunate incident where my foot kept walking but my welly didn’t come with it… But even a soggy sock couldn’t bring us down because there’s nothing that ecologists like better than having permission to look at plants all day. Even if you do end up with sphagnum blindness by the end of it!

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