The enormous importance of our peatlands for people and wildlife was revealed today with the publication of the findings of the IUCN UK Commission of Inquiry on Peatlands.
Peatlands are areas of land formed over thousands of years from carbon-rich dead and decaying plants in water-logged conditions. This ‘Cinderella’ habitat – overlooked and undervalued – covers less than 3% of the land surface of the Earth, but contains twice as much carbon as the world’s forests. Far from the hostile, barren wastelands that peatlands are often seen as, these stunning landscapes provide irreplaceable ecosystem services.
Following an 18 month inquiry involving over 300 individuals and 50 organisations the findings announced today present clear evidence of the importance of the UK’s peatlands as a huge carbon store locking up over 3 billion tonnes in the peat. Peatlands are also found at the source of around 70% of the UK’s drinking water and they provide internationally important habitat for many rare and threatened animals and plants. The great importance of peatlands as an historic archive is demonstrated in the discovery of Bronze aged preserved bodies and their unique record of past climate change.
The Inquiry found that much of the UK’s peatlands have been damaged, largely due to the way they have been managed, and as a result a significant amount of carbon is leaking into the atmosphere. 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. Damaged peatlands also impact on the quality of our drinking water at source, leading to discolouration and associated increased treatment costs for water companies and consumers.
Clifton Bain, Director of the IUCN UK Peatland Programme said:
“The good news is that this Inquiry has shown that peatland restoration not only benefits wildlife, but has measureable carbon savings, and can quickly reduce the cost of treating drinking water.
“In identifying a clear strategy for action to bring our peatlands back from the brink, the Inquiry points the way forward to avoid the social and environmental costs of further deterioration.”
Jonathan Hughes, Director of Conservation, Scottish Wildlife Trust said:
“We’ve always had a strong environmental case for investment in peatlands, but with this landmark publication from the IUCN UK Peatland Programme, we now have a clear and compelling economic case too.”
Stuart Brooks, Chief Executive of the John Muir Trust said:
“The culmination of work by the IUCN UK Peatland Programme and the many partners involved has helped to clarify the positive role that peatland conservation can make to the UK’s economy and environment. There is now an overwhelming case for investing in the future of our peatlands as a cost effective measure for reducing carbon emissions. It has the added advantage of being great for wildlife too. We really just need to get on with it.”
Contact: Greg Tinker, Scottish Wildlife Trust
Tel: 0131 312 4742, 07795 608264; Email: email@example.com
Images available on request.
This press release is distributed by Scottish Wildlife Trust on behalf of the IUCN UK Peatland Programme. Scottish Wildlife Trust is a stakeholding partner in the IUCN UK Peatland Programme and is providing a press office function for the project.
1. The full IUCN UK Commission of Inquiry on Peatlands report and a summary of findings is available at: www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org/commission/findings
2. The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) UK Peatland Programme exists to promote peatland restoration in the UK and advocates the multiple benefits of peatlands through partnerships, strong science, sound policy and effective practice. The work of the Peatland Programme is overseen by a coalition of environmental bodies including the Scottish Wildlife Trust, John Muir Trust, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, RSPB, North Pennines AONB, Moors for the Future, Natural England and the University of East London. The Programme is funded by the Peter De Haan Charitable Trust. For more information visit: www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org
3. The IUCN UK Commission of Inquiry on Peatlands was launched in early 2010, and is chaired by Martyn Howatt, former director of uplands, Natural England with Dr Steve Chapman of the James Hutton Institute as scientific co-ordinator. Patrons of the inquiry include Lord Jamie Lindsay, former Scottish Environment Minister; Professor Andrew Watkinson, director of Living with Environmental Change (LWEC), and Sir Graham Wynne, former chief executive of RSPB. Details of the Inquiry and evidence gathered can be found at: www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org/commission
4. The Commission of Inquiry report calls for strategy based on strong government, public and business responses focused on three actions:
a. The introduction of a UK and devolved government policy framework to protect and maintain existing peatlands and ensure restoration of damaged areas. Peatland policy objectives and delivery should be ‘joined-up’ across climate change, biodiversity, water, heritage, development and access legislation.
b. Ensuring the necessary funding is in place to protect and restore the UK’s peatlands. This requires continued use of the key funding streams, such as the EU Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), and maximising any additional opportunities through forthcoming reform. Other funds should be sought through the EU Environment – LIFE+ Programme, with additional core government funding alongside the development of business investment in ecosystem services.
c. Coordinating action to encourage partnerships to secure an effective evidence base, with monitoring and reporting on progress, along with knowledge exchange, education and advice.
5. The management and restoration of the UK’s peatlands is an ambitious goal, with best estimates of 2.3 million ha of blanket and raised bog, of which around 1.8 million ha is damaged in some way. By creating a better framework to integrate public and business policies and by putting the right funding mechanisms in place, we should be able to secure a much better future for our peatlands by 2050. A positive interim target would be to work towards having 1 million ha of peatlands in good condition or under restoration management by 2020 – a timescale consistent with UK and international biodiversity objectives as well as commitments to tackle global climate change.
6. Peatlands cover less than 3% of the land surface of the Earth yet they contain twice as much carbon as the world’s forests. Damaged peatlands are responsible for at least 7% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. The UK has the 17th largest peatland area, out of 175 nations with peat deposits and is in the top 20 countries with the most damaged peatlands. Remedial action currently being undertaken in the UK to restore peatlands could set a leading example worldwide.
7. Award winning photography collective 2020Vision have produced a stunning visual representation of the Commission of Inquiry’s core messages in a short film clip funded by the IUCN UK Peatland Programme and the Rural Economy Land Use (RELU) Programme. View the film at: www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org/resources/morethanjustabog