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What makes a cranberry bog an ecosystem?

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Ecosystems vary in size. They can be as small as tiny vernal pool or as large as the Earth itself. Any group of living and nonliving things that interact with each other can be thought of as an ecosystem. There are many different types of ecosystems, including tropical rain forests, salt water marshes, deserts, coral reefs, and cranberry bogs.  Each ecosystem is unique, but each also requires a delicate balance between the plant and animal species in order for the ecosystem to remain healthy.

The large cranberry system offers an ideal refuge for many plant and wildlife species. In Massachusetts, the cranberry bog and its surrounding uplands are home to many plant and wildlife species, such as the red-bellied turtle, butterflies, great blue heron, wild turkey, deer, otter, wood duck, fox, lady slipper, water lily, spruce and pine trees.

There are two methods of harvesting cranberries. The “Welcome to the Bog” lesson provides a set of images which show both in action.  Cranberries are harvested from mid-September through early November.  There are two methods of harvesting cranberries. One method is the dry harvest. Until the 1940’s, cranberries were harvested using hand-held scoops, but now machines comb the berries from the vines. You won’t see rain in any of the images where dry harvesting is occurring. Cranberries must not be wet when dry harvested. After the dry cranberries pass a bounce test, they are packaged for sale as fresh cranberries.

Water harvesting is the second way cranberries are picked. This harvesting method involves flooding the bog. The bog is flooded, a machine called a water wheel harvester loosens the berries from the vine, and the berries float to the surface. The berries are then corralled and collected. In Massachusetts, more than 85% of the cranberry crop is wet harvested. These cranberries are used to make juices, sauce, jellies, and breads.