Cedarburg Bog #2 - Building Up the Bog
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An EarthCache adventure is treasure hunting for the caches that the Earth has stored. EarthCache sites do not use stored containers; their treasure is the lessons people learn about our planet when they visit the site. Visitors to EarthCache sites can see how our planet has been shaped by geological processes, how we manage the resources and how scientists gather evidence to learn about the Earth.
Cedarburg Bog is just another example of a typical bog… Wrong! Despite being called a bog, Cedarburg Bog actually highlights a number of successional stages of wetland development from open water to emergent aquatics, sedge meadow, shrub carr and eventually swamp forest. Additionally, it is an atypical example of a “string bog”.
“Cedarburg Bog #1 – Laying the Foundation” discussed the initial formation of the bog by glacial action and how, over thousands of years, it filled with sediment to within 8 or 9 feet of the current surface of the bog. But what covers those last few remaining feet?
As the lake basin filled in, the patterns of water movement and chemistry became more complex than they had been in the open water. Eventually the lake became shallow enough to support emergent aquatic plants, whose remains we see today as a layer of organic peat deposited over the lake sediments.
Peat is composed of the partially decayed remains of dead plants. Peat accumulates in wet areas where the rate of production of organic material exceeds the rate of decomposition by microorganisms. As peat accumulates, vegetation changes from floating to emergent aquatics and then to sedge meadow, shrub carr and eventually to forest. All of these successional stages from open water to swamp forest are still present in the Cedarburg Bog and contribute to its great habitat diversity. In the forested areas around the Bog perimeter, enough peat has accumulated to provide almost firm ground. This Bog happens to be the largest peat land in Southern Wisconsin.
Some of the terms related to the various regions found in the Cedarburg Bog include:
A bog is a wetland type that accumulates acidic peat, a deposit of dead plant material. From a hydrologic perspective, true bogs depend only on rain as their source of water. However, the Cedarburg Bog actually does have some spring water flowing through it. From this view, the Cedarburg Bog is a fen, a wetland with major groundwater inflow influencing its water chemistry.
A string bog is a bog consisting of slightly elevated ridges and islands, with woody plants, alternating with flat, wet sedge mat areas. String bogs occur on slightly sloping surfaces, with the ridges at right angles to the direction of water flow. Though several mechanisms have been suggested as contributing to string formation, no totally convincing explanation is yet available. The particular string bog is 200 miles south of the next nearest string bog which are normally restricted to the far north.
Marshes are dominated by herbaceous aquatic plants growing in shallow water that is seasonal to permanent. Emergent aquatic plants of shallow marshes include cattails, bulrushes, lake sedges, arrowheads and bur-reeds. Marshes can be small to very large, and are found throughout Wisconsin, commonly along lake and river shorelines.
Sedge meadows are open communities with very dense herbaceous plant growth and little bare soil. The plants, including perennial wildflowers, grasses and sedges, grow on saturated soils; standing water is usually only present during floods and snowmelt. Sedge meadows often form a transition zone between open water habitats and uplands. Organic peat/muck soils are commonly present due to slow decomposition in these saturated soils.
Shrub carrs are swamps dominated by deciduous shrubs and are common throughout Wisconsin. This plant community can grow on saturated to seasonally flooded soils that are either organic (peat/muck) or alluvial floodplain soils.
There are several types of swamp forests. Lowland hardwood swamps are dominated by deciduous hardwood trees. Soils are saturated during much of the growing season and may be covered by standing water. Coniferous swamps are forested wetlands dominated by lowland conifers. Soils are saturated during much of the growing season and may be temporarily inundated by as much as a foot of standing water. Soils are usually organic (peat/muck), but no continuous sphagnum moss mat is present.
This is a DNR State Natural Area. Please stay on the trail. NO rock climbing and NO collecting of plants (including fruits, nuts, or edible plant parts), animals, fungi, rocks, minerals, fossils, archaeological artifacts, soil, downed wood, or any other natural material, alive or dead. WATCH OUT FOR THE POISON SUMAC (see image below).
To get credit for this EarthCache, you must email me the answers to the following 3 questions (Do NOT post them in your “Found It” log):
(1) From the parking lot, follow the public trail first west then south until you come to the “fork in the road”. Looking at the vegetation around you and using the terminology presented in the descriptions above, how would you classify this portion of the Bog?
(2) From the Fork, follow the left trail down to the Dock. Again, looking at the growing vegetation as your guide, how would you classify the narrow band of wetland surrounding the perimeter of Watt’s Lake?
(3) Return to the Fork and then head south down the right path. No specific GPS coordinates are provided. Go only as far as you feel comfortable given that the area may become very wet and muddy at times. You are looking for a distinct change in your surroundings. It will be a more open area, just west of Watt’s Lake. Once again, looking at the vegetation, how would you classify this portion of the Bog?
(4) Scenic pictures with your “Found It” log are appreciated, but not required.
DISCLAIMER: I am not an Earthcache expert, but I do enjoy finding and creating Earthcaches. The information I present is not my own. For this Earthcache, the majority of the information came from A Guide to the Natural History of the Cedarburg Bog by James Reinartz of the UWM Field Station ( http://www4.uwm.edu/fieldstation/ ). It was supplemented by information found on other Internet resources.
(No hints available.)
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Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum