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Peat

  • By: Ian T. Lawson
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Peat is an organic deposit formed on Earth's surface under waterlogged conditions. In most soils, dead organic matter is consumed in the presence of oxygen by organisms such as invertebrates, fungi, and bacteria about as quickly as it is added through processes such as leaf fall and plant death. The organic matter is oxidized to carbon dioxide gas and water, and over the long term, the amount of organic material in the soil hardly changes. However, if the sediments are waterlogged, oxygen becomes scarce because gases diffuse much more slowly in water than in air and the oxygen that is consumed cannot quickly be replaced. In the absence of oxygen, decomposition is slower and incomplete. This leads to the buildup of peat. Peat thus consists ...

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