The moorlands are like no other place on Earth. Stretching over vast areas of the United Kingdom – Great Britain, Wales, Ireland and Scotland – the moorlands are cool, wet highland areas formed on granite rock. Rain washes the nutrients out of the soil here, leaving an acidic, boggy land where few plants and trees can grow.
Sphagnum peat moss soaks up some of the water, creating blanket bogs. In other areas, heather and bilberry grow. Heather is a small, shrubby plant that blooms in beautiful shades of pink and purple from late summer to fall.
In warmer climates, you’ll find lowland heaths. These heaths are similar to the moorlands, but they may have a wider variety of plants.
- The moorlands are home to small mammals, birds and many insects. Mosquitoes swarm in the bogs, attracting spiders and dragonflies.
- Instead of decaying, dead sphagnum moss becomes compacted into peat. This peat is sometimes burned for heating and cooking. It is also used in gardens to lighten soil. Peat holds carbon. If the peat is destroyed, the carbon is released into the air, potentially contributing to global warming.
- Sphagnum moss acts like a giant sponge, and can help prevent flooding in nearby villages during heavy rains.
- The moorlands seem mysterious and wild, but they’re carefully managed. Wildlife managers sometimes intentionally start fires. The fires encourage new growth by removing dead plants.
- Sheep graze on the moorland grasses.
- Highland: hilly areas
- Bog: water-soaked land covered with mosses
- Mysterious: full of mystery
Visit the BBC to watch a video of a man on the moors.
Question: Do people live on the moors?
Answer: The moors are often cold, wet and isolated. The soil here isn’t good for farming. Most people living here are shepherds. The United Kingdom has over 75 percent of the world’s heather moors.