The importance of UK blanket bog peat soils:
Richard Benyon, 22 July 2010: Peat soils provide a wide range of ‘ecosystem services’ or functions for society, including carbon storage. UK peat soils are estimated to store around 5.5 billion tonnes of carbon, equivalent to 31 times the UK’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions if it were all lost to the atmosphere.
Peat soils also support valuable wildlife and biodiversity and a range of peatland habitats in both upland areas (for example, blanket bogs and moorland) and lowlands (for example, raised bogs and fens). The importance of peatland habitats is recognised by the designation of 68% of English upland blanket bogs as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), and 85% of lowland raised bogs.
- 10 million tons of carbon dioxide are emitted from the UK’s damaged peatlands each year
- Of the world’s 175 peatland nations, the UK is among the highest emitters of CO2 from damaged peat, largely through drainage, burning, agriculture and forestry
- Peatlands support many important species and unique ecosystems. Much of the UKs peatland is identified as internationally important under EU wildlife legislation
- Peatlands play a key role in water resource management, storing a significant proportion of global freshwater resources and maintaining water quality
- There are global calls for urgent action to restore damaged peatlands to stop carbon loss and benefit from the ecosystem services of a healthy peatland
Report from Commission of Inquiry on UK peatlands (Published October 2011):
‘It is of great concern that the Inquiry found that much of the UK’s peatlands have been damaged, with severe consequences for biodiversity and valuable ecosystem services. A significant amount of carbon is leaking into the atmosphere from drained and deteriorating peatlands. This is particularly alarming as a loss of only 5% of the carbon stored in peat would equate to the UK’s total annual green house gas emissions. On the other hand, healthy peatlands and those that have been restored and enhanced can make a positive contribution to tackling climate change.’.
Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General, International Union for the Conservation of Nature: “Peatland conservation is a prime example of a nature-based solution to climate change but we urgently need to switch from aspiration to action to secure the benefits that peatlands provide.”
Achim Steiner UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director UN Environment Programme (UNEP): “Restoration of peatlands is a low hanging fruit, and among the most cost-effective options for mitigating climate change.”
In other words, the UK is important for blanket bogs on an international scale and blanket bogs are important for the UK as they store carbon (if treated well), maintain important wildlife populations (if treated well), regulate water flows off upland areas and therefore regulate flood risks (if treated well), provide clean water supplies (if treated well) and look rather pretty too. Under these circumstances one would expect government agencies (or delivery bodies) and government Ministers to be doing all that is possible to make sure that blanket peats are protected for the wider public good.