Wetlands Work Wonders!

Wetlands Work Wonders! History written in peat

Peat bogs can be mines of information about the history of mankind. In them we have discovered perfectly preserved boats, weapons and everyday objects created at the dawn of our history. However, the peat deposit is primarily a chronological record of the history of nature. Let’s open a history book together - for example, about the Biebrza Marshes. Let's look into the peat deposits collected here. But before we begin reading such a book, let’s learn the font in which it was written. Such font equivalents are the not-so-impressive or well-known parts of plants or pollen. The variety of their forms, the ubiquity and unusual resistance make them ideally suitable for such a role.

The first chapter of the history of Biebrza Marshes starts about 12 000 years ago. Then, after the retreat of the glacier, the first formed peat layers, slowly began to be covered with pollen dispersed in the early post-glacial landscape of grasses and sedges. A little later there shrubs and bushes which soon had to give way to the first boreal forests created by pine and birch, now known from northern Europe and Asia. In the vicinity of the river developed extensive sedges. Approximately 11 000 years ago the climate became drier and harder. Thinning forests gave way to tundra.

The next millennia in the Biebrza Valley brought warming and the consequent return of forests. Initially, they were boreal forests of pine and birch that gave way to deciduous forests later replaced by oak and hornbeam. Similar to those that we can still see in the Bialowieza primeval forest. There were still large sedges which kept expanding its acreage every time water levels displaced alder forests.

The last chapter of history is the beginning of the Biebrza Valley agriculture in these areas. And so, about 1600 years ago, began rapid change. The record of the peat shows how trees pollen began to disappear and be replaced with plants associated with man. Both plants grown by us as well as those associated with our roads, fields and farm yards.

The history of the Biebrza Marshes, as well as all the other living wetlands, is still an open book. It only depends on us what the next chapter will be.