Bogs, fens, wet meadows

This section treats freshwater wetlands. (Saltwater wetlands are under Habitats>Coastal>Estuaries>Salt marsh.) Ancient wetlands (bogs and fens) have deep peat. But many younger Southeast wetlands are responding to geologically recent disturbances such as glaciation or beaver activity.

Gently sloping dome bog with minimal contributing area, on bench between Kaxdigoowu Héen (Montana) and McGinnis Creeks. Average slope 8 degrees. Large pond with half-grown pond lily, crowberry abundant. ORV trail runs through this panorama. Not too much erosion here where wheels just mash down dwarf shrubs, but in more open sphagnum rutting is severe.

Poorly drained habitats, beginning on top with small-tree forests on soil too wet for optimal tree growth. Among nonforested wetland types, younger marshes or wet meadows (shallow peat) can be distinguished from ancient, deep-peat habitats called bogs or fens depending on movement of ground water.

In summer 2014, Koren Bosworth, Cathy Pohl, Andrew Allison and I surveyed wetlands throughout the CBJ. It may have been the most intensive field survey of any kind conducted on lands accessible from the CBJ road system. Although we were not involved in the official report to CBJ, I did write a 512-page illustrated ‘Supplement‘ detailing all wetland assessment units mapped and ‘scored’ according to the Paul Adamus WESPAK protocol. The introduction and some appendices to that Supplement are here. Descriptions of CBJ-defined “Map Pages”—sub-units of the CBJ, also from the Supplement—are here.

Throughout Southeast Alaska, the colloquial term for open, nonforested wetland is “muskeg”—a colorful but imprecise term borrowed from boreal regions, where muskeg originally defined soggy black-spruce communities on permafrost. The following descriptions apply more technically correct terms in general use by wetland ecologists across North America. Habitats lumped as muskeg in Southeast include very distinctive communities, with widely differing values for wildlife. Some of these wetlands—freshwater marshes and wet meadows—are relatively young. Others—fens (dominated by deep sedge peat) and bogs (mostly with sphagnum moss peat—are so ancient that old-growth forests seem like newcomers by comparison.

A better general term than “muskeg,” long-used by ecologists for peat-covered terrain with at least 16 inches of organic matter, is peatland. If the peatland is dominated by sphagnum moss, it is called a bog. Where lusher vegetation like sedges predominates, the peatland is called a fen. Although peatland of intermediate character is sometimes difficult to pigeonhole into the category of bog or fen, the extremes in the spectrum are easy to recognize.

In this section

Hoonah habitats and wildlife

Wildlife of Xunaa Káawu In late June, 2019, I flew to Xuniyaa—shelter from the northwind, to help with Cathy Pohl’s…

2019 | Richard Carstensen | 4-minute video

Supplement to the CBJ wetlands surveys, 2016

In summer 2014, Koren Bosworth, Cathy Pohl, Andrew Allison and I surveyed wetlands throughout the CBJ. Although we were not…

2016 | Richard Carstensen | 31 page excerpt (of 512p)

Area descriptions for CBJ wetlands surveys, 2014

Supplement to the 2016 Juneau Wetlands Management Plan In summer 2014, Koren Bosworth, Cathy Pohl, Andrew Allison and I surveyed…

2018 | Richard Carstensen | 8 separate pdfs, 2 to 5 MB

Mud Bay survey for SEAL Trust

In June, 2013, Diane Mayer of Southeast Alaska Land Trust asked Koren Bosworth and me to survey and describe wetlands…

2013 | Richard Carstensen & Koren Bosworth | 64 pages, 12MB

New tools for old naturalists

The 21st-century cartographer New tools for old naturalists In March, 2015, I gave a fireside presentation at the Mendenhall Visitor…

2015 | Richard Carstensen | 31 minutes

Beavers by the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska

Introduction to a keystone species in recently deglaciated upper Áak’w Táak, inland from little lake (Mendenhall Valley). Can’t picture beavers…

2009 | Bob Armstrong|Mary Wilson | 62 pages

Natural history of Juneau trails: A watershed approach

Guide to natural and cultural history of the CBJ, summarizing Discovery’s longterm study on contract with Parks & Recreation that…

2013 | Richard Carstensen | 72 pages

Habitat use of amphibians in northern Southeast Alaska

Final report on Discovery’s 2-year study of amphibian habitat relations. Population numbers, breeding pond origin types, and amphibian natural history…

2003 | Richard Carstensen, Mary Wilson, Robert Armstrong | 77 pages