The Boglossary is designed to explain some of the more technical or complicated terms used on our website. If there are any terms you think are missing or would like us to explain in more detail then please get in touch – either Ask a Bogologist, post on our Facebook page or tweet with the hashtag #bogology.
Age-depth model: A statistically generated relationship between the depth of a core and the calendar age at any given depth, including the most likely age as well as an error range. Age-depth modelling can be something of a dark art but is vitally important to the work we do.
Bog surface wetness: The name often given to the parameter reconstructed by methods such as testate amoeba and plant macrofossil analysis. BSW refers to the wetness of a peatland, most often visualised in terms of the depth from the surface to the water table.
Boreal: The ecosystem and climate of the Northern Hemisphere high latitudes, dominated by coniferous forests with a climate characterised by long, cold winters and short, mild summers. Due to this climate, peatlands are also a dominant component of the Boreal zone.
Carbon balance: The ratio between the amount of carbon stored and released by a geological or ecological system.
Carbon cycle: The process by which carbon is exchanged between land, water, the atmosphere and living things.
Chronology: The science of assigning an order to events. Used in the context of our work to refer to the dating information available on a core. The question “What is your chronology like?” could be answered “Well, I have five radiocarbon dates and two tephra layers on a one metre core”.
Climate: The difference between climate and weather is important. Weather is what you see when you look out of the window. It changes from day to day and year to year. A hot summer or a cold winter is weather. Climate is measured over longer timescales, usually the average of 30 years data. In very simple terms, this is why, for example, when the UK is in the grip of a frozen winter, you can’t really look out of the window and mutter, “Pah, so much for global warming!”
Desiccation: The state of extreme dryness or the process of drying out.
Evapotranspiration: The sum of evaporation as well as plant transpiration. Used in the context of our work to describe the potential water losses from a bog surface when compared to the inputs from precipitation.
Genus: The level above species in which living things are grouped in taxonomy, the scientific process of classification. For example, Sphagnum is a genus which includes species such as Sphagnum magellanicum and Sphagnum cuspidatum. PS – it is customary for Latin species names to be written in italic text!
Grenzhorizont: The name given to a layer in European peat bogs when a sharp change of peat type occurs. Was the focus of much early research into peatlands and climate change.
Groundwater flow: The water entering an ecosystem, for example a peatland, through flow under the ground. The presence or absence of groundwater flow is what separates a bog from a fen.
Holocene: The interglacial period in which we currently live, defined as the past 11,500 years. The Holocene began when the glacial period ended and temperatures rose dramatically causing major ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere to decay.
Hydrology: The scientific study of the movement, distribution and quality of water on Earth. Since bogs are such wet places, hydrology is important to us! Bog surface wetness is really a measure of hydrology so by reconstructing past BSW we are really reconstructing past hydrology.
Ombrotrophic: Rain-fed. An ombrotrophic bog is one that only receives water and nutrients from the atmosphere and so is closely linked to climate. It is for that reason we focus on using ombrotrophic bogs in our research.
Palaeo: The prefix palaeo’ in front of any manner of words means past. So palaeoclimate is past climate. Palaeoecology is past ecology etc etc!
Palsa: A low, often oval frost heave that contain permanently frozen ice lenses. They are common in areas of discontinuous permafrost in polar and sub-polar regions. They often occur in bogs owing to the large amount of water available to form the ice lenses.
Permafrost: Any soil that is at or below 0°C for 2 or more years. As a result, most permafrost is located at high latitudes, although it can occur in alpine regions too.
Physiology: (of plants) The detailed study of the internal activities of plants including chemical and physical processes such as photosynthesis, respiration, transpiration or a wealth of other functions. Can vary in scale from molecular studies to those of plant reproduction or seasonality.
Precipitation: Technically, a product of condensation that falls under gravity. To you and I, that means rain (mainly) but also snow fall, sleet and hail.
Proxy: We sometimes refer to reconstructing past climate change from ‘proxy-climate’ data. By this we mean measuring some physical, biological or chemical response to climate, rather than measuring climate itself. For example, tree rings change in response to climate and can be used to provide past climate data. Measuring a proxy basically means measuring something one step removed from the climate itself.
Sphagnum: A genus of moss that is a primary component of the vegetation of many peat bogs, especially in the Northern Hemisphere.
Stomata: A pore on a leaf that opens and closes to control the level of gas exchange with the atmosphere.
Stratigraphy: The geological study of layering. Used in the context of our work to describe the layers found in our cores, or what features are found above or below others.
Vascular: (i.e. a vascular plant) Also known as higher plants, these are plants that can actively control water uptake and loss in their tissues. Examples of vascular plants include flowers, trees or grasses. This is as opposed to mosses, which are non-vascular and cannot control water uptake/loss.
Water table: Essentially, the level reached by underground water. On a bog, the water table may be at the surface in a pool, very near the surface on a lawn (a depth of 1-5 cm) or some distance below the surface beneath a hummock (a depth of 10 – 50 cm). Bogs are generally wet places, so the water table is normally near the surface.