This chapter provides the reader with an understanding of the main terms and concepts used in peatland science, and a general appreciation of the main peatland habitats. This provides a basic language of peatlands which, even if not universally agreed upon, will define the usage for this book. The distinction between wetland, peatland and mire is clarified, and the main peatland classes — marsh, swamp, fen, bog — are described. The main environmental gradients — wetness, aeration, pH and nutrient availability — are introduced. The roles of microtopographic variation and the bog-poor fen-rich fen gradient are presented as a basis for vegetation differentiation and classification. A basic distinction is made between ombrotrophic and minerotrophic peatlands.
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