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Patterned Peatlands of Minnesota

Patterned Peatlands of Minnesota

H. E. Wright
Barbara A. Coffin
Norman E. Aaseng
Copyright Date: 1992
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Patterned Peatlands of Minnesota
    Book Description:

    The first in-depth examination of the ecological and political significance of the patterned peatlands of Minnesota, one of the largest peatland complexes in the world. Research conducted during the past decade has unraveled many secrets of the intricate peatland ecosystem, unique because it has been so little altered by human action and remarkable for its display of the complex adjustment of living organisms to their environment. The book describes the flora, vegetation, and animal life of the different patterned peatlands and considers the role of surface water and ground water in the development and differentiation of fens and raised bogs. Specific chapters explore the role of mammals, birds, and amphibians and reptiles in the peatland ecosystem.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8366-6
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Glossary
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Miron L. Heinselman

    Why are the pristine patterns of vegetation on Minnesota’s peatlands worthy of protection? This book provides in-depth knowledge that will help thoughtful persons answer that question for themselves. But a short answer is that these peatlands exhibit one of the most remarkable displays on our planet of the complex adjustment of living organisms to environment. And while the research has only begun, the understanding of these relationships has already contributed greatly to the natural and environmental sciences that must lead us all to come to terms with the reality of our earth’s life-support system.

    The gradual accumulation of knowledge about...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    H. E. Wright, Jr., Barbara A. Coffin and Norman E. Aaseng
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xx)
    H. E. Wright Jr.

    southern Minnesota by moist tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Thus in northeastern Minnesota the forest is covered largely by boreal conifers, which require relatively cool summers (Fig. 3). Deciduous forest extends in a band broadening to the southeast, reflecting the higher incidence of warm moist air. Prairie dominates in western Minnesota because of the frequent occurrence of summer drought under the influence of dry western air masses that have lost most of their moisture in crossing the western mountains.

    The dense and productive upland forests of northern Minnesota produce great quantities of biomass — not...

  7. Part I. Vegetation

    • CHAPTER 1 Peat Landforms
      (pp. 3-14)
      Paul H. Glaser

      One of the most unusual landscapes in the United States is found on the glacial lake beds of northern Minnesota. Here the irregular mosaic of forest, meadow, and thicket on upland soils abruptly gives way to the symmetrical vegetation patterns on peatlands (Plates 1 and 2). The large uniform stands of vegetation in these peatlands often resemble the shape of geological landforms such as river channels, islands, and ripple marks. In places the patterns may also conjure the image of a fleet of ships steaming at sea. The “ships” have rounded bows and trailing wakes that interrupt the wavelike pattern...

    • CHAPTER 2 Vegetation and Water Chemistry
      (pp. 15-26)
      Paul H. Glaser

      Peat landforms develop unique plant communities because the component species reside entirely within the biomass produced by the ecosystem. The living vegetation merely forms a cap to a massive peat deposit, which consists of the partially decomposed remains of vegetation. Decomposition is inhibited within this deposit by anoxia, which restricts the internal cycling of nutrients by microbial metabolism. The essential minerals for plant nutrition must therefore be transported into the peatland from an external source such as the atmosphere or surrounding mineral soil (Fig. 2.1). The supply of these essential mineral ions, however, is determined not only by hydrologic processes,...

    • CHAPTER 3 Ecological Development of Patterned Peatlands
      (pp. 27-42)
      Paul H. Glaser

      Peatlands have spread over a diverse landscape in northern Minnesota and cross important environmental thresholds such as the prairie-forest border. The regional changes in physiography, soils, and climate have produced important changes in the vegetation of mineral uplands. Similar changes should be expected in the peatland vegetation unless autogenic processes buffer these peatlands from external environmental factors.

      The patterned peatlands, however, are remarkably uniform across Minnesota with respect to their landform patterns and associated vegetation assemblages and water chemistry. Raised bogs, for example, have the same radiating forest patterns from their southeastern limits on Glacial Lake Upham to their western...

    • CHAPTER 4 Bryophytes
      (pp. 43-58)
      Jan A. Janssens

      Bryophytes are primitive land plants and include mosses, bogmosses, liverworts, and hornworts, groups that are probably not very closely related to each other (Schofield 1985; Crandall-Stotler 1984; Mishler and Churchill 1984, 1985). They are mostly terrestrial, autotrophic (green) plants with two distinct alternating life forms: (1) a green gametophyte or sexual generation and (2) a partially parasitic sporophyte or asexual generation,attached to the gametophore,which is the mature part of the gametophyte. Bryophyte diversity, approximately 14,500 species in 700 genera worldwide, is higher than in any other group of terrestrial plants except angiosperms (Scagelet al. 1982). In addition,...

    • Color plates
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 5 Rare Vascular Plants
      (pp. 59-70)
      Paul H. Glaser

      Perhaps the greatest thrill for any field botanist is to discover a new locality for a rare plant. No matter how thoroughly a region is botanized, certain species continue to be overlooked because their populations are restricted to a few isolated patches. The search for rare species then becomes a treasure hunt in which botanists pit their skills against those of previous collectors and try to discover those few species that have eluded detection. Although skill and experience are essential prerequisites for this search, the ultimate arbiters of success and failure are often luck and the vagaries of nature.


  8. Part II. Fauna

    • CHAPTER 6 Large Mammals
      (pp. 73-84)
      William E. Berg

      Several comprehensive reviews discuss the range, biology, and ecology of mammals. Those encompassing the world (Grzimek 1972), North America (Hall 1981; Chapman and Feldhamer 1982), or geographic areas such as the north-central states (Jones and Birney 1988) are, of necessity, general. Reviews on mammals in Minnesota (Swansonet al. 1945; Gunderson and Beer 1953; Hazard 1982) and Wisconsin (Jackson 1961) provide more specific information, such as historical and county records, but they are nonspecific regarding habitat.

      Several mammal species have been studied in Minnesota in their conventional range and habitats, but few studies have addressed peatland use. Marshall and Miguelle...

    • CHAPTER 7 Small Mammals
      (pp. 85-110)
      Gerda E. Nordquist

      A shrew peering out from a high-domed sphagnum hummock sees nothing but the surrounding bog (Fig.7.1). Even a red squirrel, from its vantage point atop a spindly black spruce, sees only an endless sea of peat. Yet what constitutes the world in the eyes of these small mammals is only a fraction of the vast patterned peatlands of northern Minnesota. This complex of peatland communities, interspersed with northern forest habitats, encompasses a large portion of the state and adjacent Canada. Human settlers have tried to tame this exotic wilderness and failed. And many wouldbe animal inhabitants have been turned away...

    • CHAPTER 8 Bird Populations
      (pp. 111-130)
      Gerald J. Niemi and JoAnn M. Hanowski

      There has long been a mystique among birders and naturalists about the rare, exotic, or unusual birds that might be found in the vast and remote peatlands of northern Minnesota. The source of this speculation is unclear, but perhaps the soggy feel and musty smell ofSphagnummoss are contributing factors. Because peatlands are reputed to be inhospitable places where one might sink through the peat at any step or be devoured by mosquitos and flies, the expectation is that a new “species” of bird might even be discovered, because surely no one has spent much time exploring these areas....

    • CHAPTER 9 Amphibians and Reptiles
      (pp. 131-150)
      Daryl R. Karns

      Boreal peatlands fall in a zone between 43° and 68° north latitude (Heinselman 1975). Large areas in northern North America, Europe, and Asia are dominated by this unique and variable landscape. The amphibian and reptile community of the peatlands of northern Minnesota is the subject of this chapter. The Minnesota peatlands are a mosaic of habitats that can differ greatly in terms of nutrient availability, water quality, and vegetation (Heinselman 1963, 1970). These characteristics of peatland habitats affect the amphibians and reptiles living there in diverse ways.

      The scientific literature dealing with peatlands is largely botanical; terrestrial vertebrates have not...

  9. Part III. Hydrology

    • CHAPTER 10 Surface Hydrology
      (pp. 153-162)
      Kenneth N. Brooks

      The patterned peatlands of northern Minnesota illustrate the close association between peat and water. Peatlands develop where there is an excess of water, particularly shallow groundwater (Granlund 1932; Heinselman 1961; Romanov 1961; Paivanen 1973; Ahti 1977; Boelter and Verry 1977; Ivanov 1981; Ingram 1983). The intricate patterns of peatland vegetation in northern Minnesota result from the distinctive interactions of precipitation and groundwater flow. Overlooked, and sometimes misunderstood, is the relationship between these peatlands and the streamflow that originates from them.

      The perceived hydrologic role of peatlands, as with wetlands in general, has been somewhat controversial and not always correct. Are...

    • CHAPTER 11 Groundwater Hydrology
      (pp. 163-172)
      Donald I. Siegel

      The interactions between groundwater and surface water in the patterned peatlands of Minnesota are poorly understood, although groundwater seepage has been qualitatively suggested as a factor that controls differences in surface-water chemistry and the two major types of vegetation communities: raised bogs and fens (Heinselman 1963, 1970; Boelter and Verry 1977; Gorham 1957; Glaseret al. 1981). Raised bogs are topographically higher than fens and consist mostly of Sphagnum mosses and spruce trees (Picea mariana). Fen vegetation consists largely of sedges (Carex) and marsh herbs. Some of the fens, called water tracks, are major avenues for surface-water runoff.

      Most nutrients...

    • CHAPTER 12 Impact of Ditching and Road Construction on Red Lake Peatland
      (pp. 173-186)
      Kristine L Bradof

      Many studies have examined the relationship between peatland water levels and the type of vegetation present. Heinselman (1963) originally called attention to the alignment of the major landforms in Minnesota’s patterned peatlands with respect to the surface drainage. Glaseret al. (1981) observed “significant local alterations in the vegetation and landforms” associated with the system of drainage ditches in Red Lake peatland. Minerotrophic water tracks showed greater changes than ombrotrophic landforms. Both strings and flarks were drier in ditched areas, the patterns in some places becoming indistinct and merging into extensive shrublands. The vegetative composition shifted toward species better suited...

  10. Part IV. Two Studies of Ecological Development

    • CHAPTER 13 Development of a Raised-Bog Complex
      (pp. 189-222)
      Jan A. Janssens, Barbara C S. Hansen, Paul H. Glaser and Cathy Whitlock

      This chapter outlines the detailed development of the west-central bog complex of the Red Lake peatland, an example of a midcontinental forested bog complex, which was studied by means of fossil bryophyte, pollen, and radiocarbon analysis. The Red Lake peatland in northern Minnesota, with an area of 140 km² (55 square miles), contains the largest bog complexes in the United States outside Alaska. The intriguing differentiation in landforms and their pattern are described in detail by Heinselman (1963) and Glaseret al. (1981).

      As early as 1928, Auer suggested that paludification (swamping) might be extensive in North America and mentioned...

    • CHAPTER 14 The Myrtle Lake Peatland
      (pp. 223-236)
      C. R. Janssen

      The Myrtle Lake peatland, as the second-finest peatland in northern Minnesota, has been designated as an area to be protected from degradation by human activity (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 1984). It is almost entirely surrounded by uplands, and does not receive any major input or water from other peatlands. With its watershed area, it is thus an ecological entity. It is large enough (23,000 acres) to contain most of the usual peatland features of northern Minnesota. The watershed area is only an additional 12,600 acres. Among the 17 peatlands proposed to be protected by the Minnesota Department of Natural...

  11. Part V. Human Influences

    • CHAPTER 15 The Archaeological and Ethnohistoric Evidence for Prehistoric Occupation
      (pp. 239-250)
      Mary K. Whelan

      Archaeological material provides evidence of the human occupation of Minnesota from at least 12,000 years ago to the present. Unfortunately, many cultural practices are elusive, if not invisible, in the archaeological record. The use of peat by prehistoric peoples in Minnesota is an example. Whether archaeologists have not recognized the evidence of past peat use or whether prehistoric people did not in fact use peat remains to be determined. While there is no historic or archaeological evidence that historic Indian groups (Ojibwe and Dakota) burned peat for fuel or used dried peat blocks as building material, many of the individual...

    • CHAPTER 16 The Red Lake Ojibwe
      (pp. 251-262)
      Melissa L. Meyer

      Although archaeological evidence of the presence of humans in northwestern Minnesota dates back at least 12,000 years, the Red Lake Ojibwe are relative newcomers. Their predecessors had used available resources in a seasonal round of provisioning activities to supply their subsistence needs (chapter 15). Before the establishment of reservations, the Red Lake Ojibwe pursued a similar subsistence strategy. In fact, the Red Lake economy today continues to be based largely on the same resources that native inhabitants of the region have exploited for generations. In this sense, the Red Lake Ojibwe maintain a great deal of continuity with the past....

    • CHAPTER 17 Ditching of Red Lake Peatland During the Homestead Era
      (pp. 263-284)
      Kristine L. Bradof

      Red Lake peatland in northern Minnesota is renowned for its complex vegetation patterns, which reveal the sensitivity of plants to water flow and water chemistry. Another pattern superimposed on the peatland, an extensive network of drainage ditches, has received little attention, yet it is the legacy of an important chapter in Minnesota’s history.

      These ditches failed to drain the peatland effectively for its intended conversion to agricultural uses. The high costs of ditch construction, however, did drain the financial resources of three northern Minnesota counties, leaving them on the brink of fiscal disaster by 1929. Ironically, the failed attempt to...

    • CHAPTER 18 Management of Minnesota’s Peatlands and Their Economic Uses
      (pp. 285-300)
      Mary E. Keirstead

      Among the various perceptions of peatlands in Minnesota is the long-standing view that the peatlands are a vast, untapped economic resource. As early as 1870, the state legislature considered using peat as a locomotive fuel. In the early part of the present century, peatlands were thought to be both an important source of agricultural land and a fuel source that could free the state from dependence on other fuels. Since the 1940s, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) has conducted numerous studies in hope of bringing a viable peat-related industry to the iron-mining region of the state. In...

    • CHAPTER 19 Peatland Protection
      (pp. 301-316)
      Norman E. Aaseng and Robert I. Djupstrom

      The Red Lake peatland, the “big bog” of northern Minnesota, stretches for 45 miles from east to west and 13 miles from north to south. Unbroken tracts of ribbed fen, ovoid islands, forested bogs, and teardrop islands are crisscrossed only by the trails of moose, eastern timber wolves, and the woodland caribou that disappeared in the 1940s. With the exception of some failed ditches, the landscape appears as it did in the 1850s — like an ocean of grass in which an occasional teardrop island looks like a ship at sea. This one-half-million acre ecosystem is one of the last true...

  12. Contributors
    (pp. 317-320)
  13. Index
    (pp. 321-327)