We all recognize a marsh or shallow waters as saturated spaces. Some wetlands, such as the one featured in the photo of the week (above), aren’t as clearly recognizable upon first glance.The Shorepine Bog is an unfamiliar landscape of seemingly dry, uniform golden greens and twisted forms. This bog was found in the Pacific Rim National Park between Uclulet and Tofino and is typical to the BC coast where there are low lying areas and a lot of rainfall.
What is a bog, exactly?
Wetlands receive water in many different ways. Some have input from nearby lakes and streams, while others are fed by groundwater. Bogs are unique in that they do not have access to groundwater that carries nutrients- they are typically fed solely by rainwater. They are not flooded, but normally maintain constant saturation through capillary action (where water is drawn upward from attractive forces…think of a paper towel or paintbrush absorbing water). What this all means is that bogs are nutrient poor. Because there are few nutrients available for plants, the types of shrubs and herbs and other life you see in a bog are specially adapted and unique.
The Shorepine Bog photographed by Thiago Sanna F. Silva features many twisted trees that characterize BC Bogs. This is an illustrative example of why mom always told you to eat your veggies! The trees found in bogs don’t receive the nutrients required to grow large and tall. What we see in this photograph are the gnarly figures of pines that have adapted to difficult living conditions. The most recognizable tree in this image is that of the Shore Pine (Pinus contorta contorta). This particular species has found a niche in being able to withstand harsh environments. Perhaps it evolved this way because this helps to reduce competitor species? (Shore Pine is shade intolerant). The bog may be an old growth forest, but appears to be a series of small shrubs. A Shore Pine found in your local bog may only be a few centimeters in diameter at its trunk, but could be hundreds of years old!
Why is this malnourished tree of importance?
The Shore pine supports communities of small rodents which eat the seeds, and provide nesting habitat for a variety of birds including Yellow Legs (Alaska). The cambium is also consumed by Porcupines. People have used this tree as medicine, food and fuel. First Nations have used the pitch to treat open sores and chewed the buds for sore throats. As the tree grows in nutrient poor, saturated grounds, it has also been used to stabilize soils.