Baltic bog moss (Sphagnum balticum)

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Baltic bog moss
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Baltic bog moss fact file

Baltic bog moss description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumBryophyta
ClassSphagnopsida
OrderSphagnales
FamilySphagnaceae
GenusSphagnum

This rare moss can grow whilst completely or partly submerged in water. It resembles several other members of the sphagnum moss family and ranges from dull green to orange in colour. It can form large floating mats under the right conditions but, typically, occurs as scattered shoots amongst other bog mosses.

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Baltic bog moss biology

Recent studies of this moss suggest that it might be what is called a ‘colonist’ species. This means it is amongst the first species to colonise a new site. However, it does not appear to be a competitive species, so when other mosses and higher plants move on to the site, Baltic bog moss disappears.

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Baltic bog moss range

It has been recorded from seven different and widely scattered sites in the UK, and it seems it has disappeared from four of these. In England there are three recorded sites, in Cheshire (from where it has not been seen for over a century), Yorkshire (not seen in recent years) and Northumberland, which is the only current site in England. The only known Welsh site is in Ceredigion (Cardiganshire), and it has not been seen here since 1967. In Scotland, it is recorded in Aberdeenshire, Dumfriesshire and Abernethy Forest in Inverness-shire but, here too, it has disappeared from two sites.

Outside of the UK, it has an extensive range across the lowlands of the northern hemisphere, although it is confined to the more northerly latitudes.

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Baltic bog moss habitat

Baltic bog moss, as its name suggests, is found in raised bogs holding water containing few nutrients. Occasionally, it is also found in blanket bogs.

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Baltic bog moss status

Classified as Endangered in the UK, and protected by Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

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Baltic bog moss threats

One of the reasons for the disappearance of this moss from two of the Scottish sites is due to the afforestation of much of these upland bogs. This dates from the time when upland mires and bogs were not considered to be sites worthy of protecting. As well as shading, the moss is affected by changes in the water quality, particularly increased acidity and higher nutrient levels. Drainage of bogs and peat-cutting are also potential threats to this species, along with inappropriate gathering of all sphagnum species by the horticultural trade and by local collectors.

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Baltic bog moss conservation

Baltic bog moss is listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plans (UK BAP), and is included in English Nature's Species Recovery Programme (SRP). The most important tasks behind protecting this moss are as follows: to re-survey those sites where it is known to have occurred in the past; ensure the survival of the moss where it is still found; establish ex-situ colonies (from British plants) to provide specimens for re-colonising suitable sites. It is also important that the precise habitat requirements of this species are known, particularly in view of its intolerance of poor water quality. It is hoped that more bryologists will be trained to identify this species and encouraged to report any new records. Finally, the indiscriminate collecting of sphagnum from the wild for use by the horticulture industry (for use in hanging baskets and displays) should be discouraged, perhaps by using local publicity and information boards at the appropriate sites.

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
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Find out more

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Authentication

Information supplied by Natural England.
http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/

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Glossary

Ex-situ
Measures to conserve a species or habitat that occur outside of the natural range of the species. E.g. in zoos or botanical gardens.
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References

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Image credit

Baltic bog moss  
Baltic bog moss

© Ron D. Porley

Ron D. Porley
Foxhold House
Crookham Common
Thatcham
RG15 8EL
United Kingdom
ron.porley@english-nature.org.uk

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