Ryam, and variations thereof… Days 3 and 4

 We spent the first morning at Mukhrino walking around the raised bogs (the word belies the beauty of them – see the photo) on wooden boardwalks and learning about the work that Elena, Nina, Nadia, Ilya, Evgeniy and Yaroslav do when they come to Mukhrino. They visit at least every week, and a lot of time and effort has been put in to make the place welcoming and comfortable. Elena explained about the ‘ryams’ – raised bogs that are a feature of this area. They are composed of a complex mixture of lichen, moss, shrubs and dwarf Pinus sylvestris – which is what we have come to collect. The pines are very small, but apparently very old, and the roots lie many feet below the surface. There is evidence of succession with a range of sizes and ages. There are also subtle differences in the structure and composition of the ryam as the peat depth decreases towards the edge of the bog where the forest begins.

Dwarf pines can be seen growing on ‘islands’ of ryam where peat has built up over time

We sampled from four plots to include different stages of this transition, mapping 50 trees in each and collecting cambium (the living layer of tissue between the bark and the wood) or needles if they were in reach. We managed two plots in the first afternoon, working quickly once the needles were in reach (see the other photo).

This pine is one of a number that have been used to calibrate the age of the trees we have been collecting from, by comparing the age (number of rings) with the diameter of the main stem. Although small, these pines are very old – this one is probably much more than 50 years old. Notice where the trunk is wet – all of this is below the surface of the bog.

In the evening there was a massive downpour and thunderstorm which meant that the following day was nice and cool with a pleasant breeze which kept off the worst of the mosquitoes while finishing off the last plots.

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