Ottawa – A visit to Mer Bleue Bog

Want to know what northern tundra looks like, but do not necessarily have the means (or time) to fly to Canada’s far north? There is a simple solution: to visit the Mer Bleue Bog in Ottawa.

I drive by this place every day to go to work, but until a few weeks ago, I had no idea it existed. Yet many describe the place as one of Ottawa’s most remarkable natural landscapes. And after visiting it for the first time this weekend, I can understand why.

The Mer Bleue Bog would have been named this way because the morning fog gives it the appearance of a blue sea (Mer Bleue means blue sea in French). But the landscape here is not marine. It is rather representative of northern landscapes and has a typical boreal vegetation: spruce, larch, shrubs, Labrador tea and even some carnivorous plants!

Mer Bleue Bog

But why? The water in the bog, due to a lack of oxygen, is rather acidic. This means that only a few species of plants, adapted to this acidity, can grow there. Since water is too acidic for decomposing bacteria, dead plants accumulate without decomposition. This is how peat is formed (hence the name peat bog).

Mer Bleue Bog

In addition, Sphagnum (a kind of moss), which grows on the bog, prevents the sun from warming the soil, so it stays frozen longer. This is the reason why we find species of plants that are more common to the north of the country.

Interesting, don’t you think? In fact, that’s what I learned during my walk on the trails of the bog. A 1-km boardwalk forms a loop over Mer Bleue and interpretation panels along the way explain the formation of the peat bog, its biodiversity and its ecological importance.

The Mer Bleue bog is part of what is known as the Greenbelt, a network of natural areas that surrounds the city of Ottawa. It is one of the largest peatlands in southern Ontario, and one of the most studied. If you wish to escape the city while staying within the limits of Ottawa, the Mer Bleue Bog is a good place for that. For me who lived a few years in northern Quebec, it was a little strange to see a landscape so familiar a few kilometres from my new home …

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