What do blow torches have to do with mountain bogs? Habitat restoration.
Mountain bogs are one of the most critically endangered habitats of the Southern Appalachians. A primary threat to these habitats is the encroachment of trees and shrubs. This eventually creates too much shade for rare bog plants and
animals, which need full sunlight to survive. Torching is a technique used to manage the overgrowth of shrubs in these environments.
Torching stresses stemmed plants and encourages them to use vital stored carbohydrates to repair damage after the initial cutting. It may also create wounds in the plant’s bark and outer defenses, introducing pathogens. This should slow the regrowth of woody plants, making future bog management less expensive and labor intensive.
An eight-year study by Wildlife Resources Division researchers is testing the effectiveness of techniques used to restore and manage mountain bogs. WRD is working on three sites in Rabun and Union counties. A recent test conducted at Rabun County site used propane torches to blister stems of woody resprouts.
The Rabun County bog on the Chattahoochee National Forest has already undergone quite a transformation, due to torching and other efforts of the Wildlife Resources Division, U.S. Forest Service and Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance. Many species of endangered plants, such as purple mountain pitcherplants, swamp pinks, Canada burnet and Cuthbert’s turtlehead, have been introduced into the environment, and many of these mountain bog plants are doing extremely well!
This site was once inhabited by federally threatened bog turtles. It is hoped these rare turtles can be reintroduced to the bog as part of an on-going bog turtle headstart program, once restoration is complete.