Hidden benefits of peatlands revealed by new Inquiry

The enormous importance of our peatlands for people and wildlife has recently been revealed with the publication of the findings of the IUCN UK Commission of Inquiry on Peatlands.

Peats at Newmarket, Isle of Lewis, Outer hebrides, Scotland Photo: colinjcampbell/Flickr

Peatlands are areas of land with a naturally accumulated layer of peat. These are formed under waterlogged conditions from carbon rich, dead and decaying plant material. Peatlands are found in at least 175 countries – from the tropics to the poles – and cover around 4 million km2 or 3% of the world’s land area. In Europe, peatlands extend to ca. 515,000 km2 and the UK is amongst the top ten nations of the world in terms of its total peatland area.

High level strategic decisions are being made at a national and international level on climate change, biodiversity, water and agriculture, which will impact the way we manage our peatlands and how we pay to keep them in a healthy state.

The IUCN National Committee in the UK under its Peatland Programme carried out an Inquiry on peatlands that brought together over 300 contributors from over 50 organisations drawing on a wide range of expertise from science, policy and practice. The Inquiry’s findings clearly demonstrate the value of healthy peatlands to society, the damage which has been done to them, and the huge liability of doing nothing to repair this damage.

The Assessment Report sets out the main conclusions, highlighting gaps and opportunities for further action. It identifies ways to secure additional funding and develop expertise to help land managers restore the UK’s peatlands and to allow decision makers to take better account of their multiple benefits.

During a session in the Scottish Parliament, chaired by a Member of the Scottish Parliament, Rob Gibson on 16 November 2011, the report was presented by the Peatland Programme’s Director, Clifton Bain to Stewart Stevenson, Scottish Minister for Environment and Climate Change, and the lead opposition party’s shadow Environment Secretary, Sarah Boyack.

IUCN Regional Director for Europe, Dr Hans Friederich who participated in the launch said: “It is a privilege to attend the meeting in the Parliament and to hear a rich debate about the findings of the report. Scotland will take the recommendations seriously, but this report is also an example for other countries in Europe of what can be done to protect our peatlands, as sources of clean water, areas of high biodiversity and significant stocks of carbon.”

'We've always had a strong environmental case for investment in peatlands, but with this landmark publication from the IUCN National Committee in the UK’s Peatland Programme, we now have a clear and compelling economic case too' stated Jonathon Hughes, Director of Conservation, Scottish Wildlife Trust.

For more information www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org/resources.


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