About Burns Bog
Burns Bog is…
- The largest raised peat bog on the West Coast of North America
- A globally unique ecosystem
- Part of the South Fraser Delta Ramsar Site
- Functions as “the Lungs of the Lower Mainland”
- A major regulator of regional climate
- A vital stopover for migratory birds: over 400 species seen!
- Home to rare and endangered species like the Southern Red-backed vole
- At 3,000 ha, is the largest undeveloped urban wilderness in North America
- Critical habitat for the regionally endangered Greater Sandhill Cranes
Burns Bog is situated on the delta of the Fraser River, in the southwest corner of the Province of British Columbia, Canada. On the west coast of North America, the Fraser Delta Region has a fair climate year-round. High rainfall year-round sustains temperate rainforests, and the massive Fraser River. At its delta lies Burns Bog, the only remaining bog of its kind.
We like to call Burns Bog “the lungs of the Lower Mainland” due to its role in maintaining air quality throughout the region. The Bog does a lot for us. It regulates the climate. It captures CO2 from the atmosphere and stores it in peat. It filters rainwater and prevents flooding. It provides habitat to numerous species at risk (including the Sandhill Crane and Pacific Water Shrew), and it is a key rearing ground for Fraser River salmon, including sockeye, pink and chum.
Without the bog, the Lower Mainland would be a very different place.
Bogs take thousands of years to form. Burns Bog began as a tidal pool at the mouth of the Fraser, an enormous sinkhole left by the sheer weight of glacial ice that covered the land over 10 000 years ago. This open pool became a fen, and then grew into a bog with the help of Spaghnum moss. The moss began growing almost 5000 years ago, and started producing peat. In places these peat deposits are now over 20 metres deep.
Though it took spaghnum mosses over 3000 years to form the Bog, human beings have destroyed half of it in the last century. Burns Bog has been isolated from surrounding areas by development. The animal population has been greatly reduced, and and some species have been pushed out entirely. Human development has harmed the bog’s water table and threatens its very survival. Highway 91, built in 1986, and the South Fraser Perimeter Road have cut directly into the bog, causing serious and lasting damage.
Over 103 species of migratory birds have been observed in the Bog. Many rare flora and fauna call it home. Burns Bog is an ecosystem recognized by the international community as globally unique, and it’s essential to the continued survival of numerous bird species. The global importance of Burns Bog as a wetlands habitat led to its inclusion in the Fraser Delta River Ramsar Site in 2012.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of wetlands. Not only do they harbor an enormous diversity of life, they sequester more carbon globally than do forests. They are ten times more effective a carbon sink than any other ecosystem. This is because peat deposits can be over 20 metres deep! But as of 2001, only 17% of Canada’s wetlands remain. Over 90% of the Lower Mainland’s wetlands have been lost. And over 50% of wetlands worldwide were destroyed in the 20th century. Burns Bog is threatened, Tar Sands development in Alberta is destroying tens of thousands of hectares of wetlands, and climate change is threatening sub-Arctic wetlands. All the more reason to save Burns Bog for future generations.