Hot Bog: Study tests warming in northern Minn. swamp

Fans of this blog know that few things excite me like peat bogs. Well, maybe a few more things, but peat bogs among them.

Some people like peat bogs because they are such complex ecosystems. Some people like peat bogs because they welcome a most fascinating collection of migratory birds. I like peat bogs because I grew up in one, and the soggy shoes and rank swamp gas remind me of home.

Ever hop across a marsh on top of grass clumps only to find that the last one was full of ground wasps? I have! And my sisters, who were running behind me at the time, will tell you that it’s no picnic.

The Star Tribune reported over the weekend that the U.S. Department of Energy will fund a $50 million, 10-year study of a peat bog near Marcell, Minnesota, in Itasca County. Scientists will test the effects of warming on the ecosystem, to see what the world can expect from bogs if climate change advances at projected rates. The effects are no small thing, as the way bogs react to climate change could affect anything from the life and death of species, to weather, agriculture and, of course, energy policy.

Northern Minnesota’s climate is entering more fervent discussion lately, illustrated by the moose population story I shared last week. What could a changing climate mean for bogs like Sax-Zim, where I grew up, one of the world’s largest? This study aims to find out.

Perhaps it is time to dust off my notes for the Bog Blog radio show?

Hush. Wait. We must be patient.


  1. In the secular world, time and money are important. Spending this $50 million is an absolute waste of both…

  2. Considering that peat bogs hold @ 1/3 of the world’s carbon, understanding how they react to a changing climate seems rather important to understand.

  3. I grew up on the edge of “big bog country.” Our community heard perennial announcements about a forthcoming peat factory. Fortunately, it never happened. I’m happy to hear that we’re going to focus our efforts on studying this timeless and mysterious landscape, rather than mining it.

  4. Studying it?…Then what?…At least if we mine it we’d get something for it.

    Can you imagine 130 years ago if we’d “studied”…should we mine the iron ore?…should we cut the pines? My goodness..

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