Photo by Betty Campbell
|The Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club
How was Alfred Bog formed?
Around 8,000 years ago, when the lake formed by the melting glaciers drained to the Atlantic down the Ottawa River, the river abandoned its old channel and moved to its present location. The abandoned channel now contains two significant boreal peat bogs, Mer Bleue at the west end and Alfred Bog at the east end.
The dominant vegetation in these bogs is sphagnum moss, known to gardeners as peat moss. The sphagnum became established in a boreal (meaning northern) climate. It thrives in cool, wet, oxygen-starved, nutrient-poor, acid conditions and has been building ever since. Sphagnum "wicks" up water from below and grows best at the centre of the bog so over thousands of years a dome forms. Domed bogs drain in all directions from the dome, and the only nutrients they receive come from rain and snow. These conditions produce a unique community of plants and animals.
Treasures like these must be preserved for future generations.
While Mer Bleue is owned and protected as a significant conservation area by the National Capital Commission, Alfred Bog is exposed to commercial exploitation. Over the last decade, a booming market for peat moss has resulted in large-scale, mechanized peat extraction in Alfred Bog. In addition to loss of the peat that goes to market, associated drainage operations eventually lower the water table over wide areas, killing the surface layer of sphagnum and other specialized vegetation. The bog could fall below the critical size needed for its survival.
Drainage exposes the peat to oxygen from the air. Exposed peat oxidizes at a rate that can exceed 1cm/year, releasing carbon dioxide gas, recognized to be an important factor in global warming. This rate of oxidation over the 42 square km of Alfred Bog would convert 420,000 cubic metres of peat/year into carbon dioxide equivalent to putting an additional 24,000 family cars on the roads.
On 28 August 1988, led by the Ottawa Field-Naturalists and the Vankleek Hill Nature Society, the Nature Conservancy of Canada closed a deal to purchase 4,500 acres of Alfred Bog. The money to acquire the property came from contributions by thousands of people, matched by government grants.
Once again, the Nature Conservancy has stepped to the fore, taking an option to purchase 3,200 acres adjoining the 4,500 acres already owned. The combined 7,700 acres will be protected by Ontario Parks. The federal and provincial governments have each agreed to contribute one third of the total amount. But the Nature Conservancy still has to find the remaining one-third a hefty $820,000.
In early October, the OFNC sent the Nature Conservancy $55,000 toward the Alfred Bog purchase. The Conservancy must take out a loan to complete the purchase and there are a few outstanding issues concerning titles (the property was asembled over the years) and boundary lines. These issues are expected to be cleared and an official announcement of the purchase will be made before year end.
There will still be a loan to pay down, so donations continue to be welcome. They continue to come in and we will send another contribution later.
There is good reason to believe that once again, a large number of private individuals will show their determination to save Alfred Bog by making a tax-deductable donation. Although we cannot expect to receive additional federal or provincial grants beyond those being offered, a strong demonstration of public support will stimulate institutional and foundation contributions. Together, we can reach this goal.
Contributions can be made to the Ottawa Field Naturalists or directly to the Nature Conservancy.
Send cheques to:
IMPORTANT: Mark your donation, "ALFRED BOG FUND OFNC"