Saving the Bog

In early October 2004, the OFNC sent the Nature Conservancy $55 000 toward the Alfred Bog purchase (see details below).

The Conservancy must take out a loan to complete the purchase and it will have to be repaid, so donations are still welcome. We hope to send another contribution later.

How was Alfred Bog formed?

Around 8000 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.

Exactly what is a peat bog?

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.

Why Alfred Bog is special?

Treasures like these must be preserved for future generations.
At 4200 hectares (10 000 acres) Alfred Bog is the largest bog in Ontario south of the Canadian Shield. It is twice the size of Mer Bleue. Some examples of provincially rare species in Alfred Bog are Rhodora (Rhododendron canadense), a Canadian species of rhododendron, the White-fringed Orchid, Spotted Turtles, and the Bog Elfin butterfly.

White-fringed Orchid; from Wikipedia by magnolia1000

Market demand for peat moss

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.

Greenhouse gas emissions

Drainage exposes the peat to oxygen from the air. Exposed peat oxidizes at a rate that can exceed 1 cm/year, releasing carbon dioxide gas, recognized to be an important factor in global warming. This rate of oxidation over the 42 km2 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.

What has been done?

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 4500 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 3200 acres adjoining the 4500 acres already owned. The combined 7700 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 assembled 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.

Map showing current ownership of Alfred Bog

What we can do?

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.

How to make a donation

Contributions can be made to the Ottawa Field Naturalists or directly to the Nature Conservancy.

Send cheques to:
The Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club
Box 35069 Westgate P.O.
Ottawa ON  K1Z 1A2

or to:
The Nature Conservancy of Canada
110 Eglinton Ave. West, Suite 400
Toronto ON  M4R 1A3

IMPORTANT: Mark your donation, “ALFRED BOG FUND — OFNC”

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© The Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club
This page was revised on 19 October 2018
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