Peatlands are ecosystem superheroes
Peatlands are found all over the world and although they cover only 3% of the world’s land, they store 42% of its soil carbon1 – twice as much as all of the Earth’s standing forests.
Peatlands produce oxygen and purify water. They provide vital services such as controlling water supplies and preventing floods and droughts. They cool and retain moisture in response to climate change. Peatlands are home to unique species that can only survive in these wet ecosystems, and they provide many people with food and fuel. Peatlands also preserve important ecological and archaeological information such as pollen records and human artefacts.
Issues facing peatland ecosystems
Despite their importance, peatlands around the world are being drained so they can be used for agriculture, infrastructure development, mining and oil and gas exploration.
Peatlands are also being degraded by overgrazing, deforestation, nitrogen pollution and extraction of peat as fuel and as a growing medium. Especially worrying is that when drained, peatlands become susceptible to burning, and when they burn they emit toxic smoke and tonnes of carbon, and are almost impossible to put out. Peatland loss leads to biodiversity loss, including devastating reductions in iconic species such as orangutans and tigers.
Solutions to help peatland ecosystems
To save peatlands, we need to view them differently and value them as the ecosystem superheroes they are. Bringing an end to draining peatland and replanting native species will prevent further decline and retain water. Peatlands can be used in the global carbon market by housing projects that become verified and available as carbon offset projects.
Adhering to the principles of a circular economy uses fewer new resources and recycles those we already have. Changing farming practices to become climate-smart, including reducing the reliance on destructive monocrops like palm oil, which necessitate the clearing of vast swathes of peatland.
HOW WE CAN ALL HELP
The majority of us mostly come across peat products in garden centres. The UK Wildlife Trust has these tips on going peat-free:
- Check all purchases for labelling that says peat-free
- Be vocal – the more we ask for peat-free options, the more stores will stock it
- Use alternatives including composting at home
- Look for retailers that are committed to phasing out peat sales
Ramboll's work supporting peatland ecosystems
Click below to read more about projects and news related to this ecosystem