Tuesday, 27 May 2014

For peat's sake! Colossal peat bog discovered in Congo

The BBC reported today that a "colossal peat bog" the size of England has been discovered in a remote region of the Congo. The bog is thought to contain over a billion tonnes of peat and "scientists say investigating the carbon-rich material could shed light on 10,000 years of environmental change in this little-studied region".

Dr Simon Lewis, from the University of Leeds, said: "It's remarkable that there are parts of the planet that are still uncharted territory." He added: "Few people venture into these swamps as they are quite difficult places to move around in and work in."

Satellite images initially hinted at the presence of the enormous tropical peatland, but an expedition, starting from Itanga village in April, confirmed it was there. The discovery team, from the University of Leeds, the Wildlife Conservation Society-Congo and Congo-Brazzaville's Marien Ngouabi University, had to contend with dwarf crocodiles, gorillas and elephants as they explored the area. However they said the biggest challenge was soggy feet.

Now they've found all this peat, what do they do with it?

'An Experimental Approach to the Disaggregation of Samples from Peat Deposits', by Joanna Bending and published in Volume 10 (2005) of Environmental Archaeology, explores how the analysis of plant macrofossils from peat deposits is a common procedure, but little work has been undertaken to assess the chemical and mechanical methods of disaggregating samples mentioned by researchers in their methodologies. 

In the article experimental work was carried out on material from a peat monolith from the Faroe Islands to ascertain the effectiveness of processing using a sonic bath, sodium carbonate and potassium hydroxide for disaggregating the samples. The amount of damage caused to different modern plant parts was also assessed. The results indicate that sodium carbonate and potassium hydroxide are the most effective methods of disaggregation. Damage to plant parts was caused more quickly by potassium hydroxide than sodium carbonate.

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'Colossal peat bog discovered in Congo' >

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