Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Soils: Gley Soils

One of the more common and icon soils of Ireland is the gley, which is more commonly known as bogs. The soil has a large clay composition which aids in its inability to drain.  This inability for soil to drain leads to eventual oxygen depleted zones which preserves anything in that area. With no oxygen, microbes cannot consume fallen plant, or even animal matter, which can be used later in many ways.
The soil is actually deep, the plants have built up over a large amount of time and every year more is accumulated on the top levels.
These iconic soils have a large part in the history of Ireland. Since there are no large forests, the plant life from the bogs are used for everything from housing to fuel to horticultural practices. In most of the bogs, the main plant life is Peat. There is a company in Ireland that does the majority of the harvesting and maintenance of the commercial bogs; Bord na Móna. They harvest the peat for everything from electricity, fire logs, to fertilizer.
When the peat is totally used up, which can happen from heavy removal, the land may be turned over for farming. This soil underneath the heavy layers of peat is quite nutritious and can be highly sought after. Since the peat tends to grow on top of each other, the nutrients at the bottom and in the soil are still available for new plants if the bog is drained of its peat.
There are many examples of both gleys with the bog still intact verses a gley that has already been used for agriculture. The soil on the left is without conventional agricultural practices and the one on the right has been used for agriculture.


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