A “mire” is a stretch of swampy or boggy ground. It can also refer to a situation from which it is hard to extricate oneself. Used as a verb, “mire” means to become stuck in mud. 

It originated in Middle English, from Old Norse mýrr, related to moss. A quagmire is a floating (quaking) mire, bog or any peatland.

Mires are found around the globe. They arise because of incomplete decomposition of organic matter, usually from vegetation, due to water-logging and subsequent anoxia. There are four types: bog, fen, marsh, and swamp. They have in common the characteristic of being saturated with water at least seasonally, with actively forming peat.

The largest accumulations of mires are found in the temperate, boreal and subarctic zones of the Northern Hemisphere. In the sub-tropics, mires are rare and restricted to the wettest areas. In the tropics, mires can again be extensive, typically underlying tropical rainforest. 

Mires are used mostly for agriculture and forestry. This involves cutting drainage ditches to lower the water table in order to enhance forest growth or for use as pasture or cropland. Also, the commercial harvest of peat for energy production is widely practiced in Northern European countries, such as Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Baltic states. Tropical peatlands produce raw materials, such as wood, bark, resin, and latex.

Mires provide important information on past climates because they are sensitive to changes in the environment and can reveal levels of isotopes, pollutants, macro-fossils, metals from the atmosphere, and pollen. Also, records of past human behavior and environments can be contained within mires. These may take the form of human artefacts, or paleo-ecological and geochemical records.

Northern peatlands were mostly built up during the Holocene after the retreat of Pleistocene glaciers but the tropical ones are often much older. Nakaikemi Wetland in southwest Honshu, Japan is more than 50,000 years old and has a depth of 45 meters.

In their natural state, peatlands are resistant to fire. Drainage of peatlands for palm oil plantations creates a dry layer of peat that is especially vulnerable to fires.

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about mires but nothing about how you get out of one. I guess you just have to yell for help.

  One thought on “mire

  1. March 13, 2022 at 7:25 am

    I found this a very informative blog. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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