The upper layer of a peat bog, in which organic matter decomposes aerobically and much more rapidly than in the underlying, anaerobic catotelm. As litter accumulates at the surface the size of the catotelm increases, because the thickness of the acrotelm is limited to depth at which aerobic respiration can occur. Although the rate of decomposition per unit volume of material is much greater in the acrotelm than in the catotelm, a point is reached at which the difference in volume between the two layers is such that the total rate of decomposition in the catotelm is equal to that in the acrotelm. This limits the thickness to which the bog can grow. Should there be a climate change (e.g. an increase in precipitation) growth can resume. Bogs therefore preserve a record of climatic conditions. Most water movement occurs within this layer, because the hydraulic conductivity of the acrotelm is about 100 times that of the catotelm.
Subjects: Ecology and Conservation.