THEMATIC GROUP LEADS
SC Focal point: Jonathan Hughes
Peatlands exist in at least 175 countries, covering 3% of the world’s land area, or approximately four million km2. On percentage alone this might not seem much, yet in terms of providing services to society – particularly the provision of clean drinking water and climate regulation – their contribution is significant. Peatlands store 30% of global carbon, and when drained and damaged they exacerbate climate change, emitting two gigatonnes of CO2 every year, which accounts for almost 6% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.
Unfortunately, the role played by peatlands in the supply of these ecosystem services has not been widely appreciated. This has led to widespread damage across the world, from the tropics to the poles, caused by a number of factors including land use change, pollution, and increasingly, the adverse impacts of climate change.
In recent years international biodiversity and climate change conventions have recognised peatlands as a priority for action, with peatland conservation and restoration identified as the low hanging fruit in tackling climate change.
Innovative work of countries across the globe has demonstrated successful peatland ecosystem management through combining policy, science and practice. The IUCN CEM Peatland Specialist Group’s work aims to bring together an international network of experts to share good practice, build consensus on science and encourage national strategies for action to deliver peatland conservation and restoration.
It is hoped that this collaborative working will scale up delivery of peatland conservation and restoration, and make significant contributions towards biodiversity, Aichi targets, Ramsar Convention, climate change objectives and other international obligations.
In addition the specialist group aims to highlight the benefits of peatlands ecosystems to a wider and influential audience, as well as explore new funding opportunities for peatlands based on ecosystem services. To deliver on these aims the group works closely with other international peatlands initiatives (e.g. IMCG, UN FAO) to ensure synergy and provide added value.
Work to date has included the launch of the report Global Peatland Restoration: Demonstrating Success, in Brussels in 2014, which showcases restoration projects from across the world. A new payment for ecosystem services mechanism, the Peatland Code, was also launched at the World Forum on Natural Capital in Edinburgh in 2015.
The group is supported by the IUCN UK National Committee Peatland Programme. More information on this programme and the work mentioned above can be found on their website: www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org.
The IUCN UK Peatland Programme has held several successful conferences on the issues surrounding peatland conservation and restoration, attracting an international crowd. Upcoming conference dates will be released in due course. More information can be found at www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org/news-and-events.