About Peatlands

Peatlands are wetland landscapes that are characterised by waterlogged organic soils made of dead & decaying plants.

Image © Clifton Bain

About Peatlands

Peatlands are areas of land, habitats, supported by a naturally accumulated layer of peat. Peat soils are formed from carbon rich, dead and decaying plant material under waterlogged conditions.

As iconic landscapes peatlands offer breathing spaces for millions of people, support livelihoods and provide a sense of place for many communities. The peat itself harbours a rich palaeo-ecological and historic archive with preserved artefacts from past human societies and a wealth of information about our changing environment, land management and climate. Peatlands are important source catchments for drinking water and also have a role in the regulation of water flows. They also support species and habitats that depend on often extreme, waterlogged conditions are of international importance for biodiversity conservation.

Peatlands cover 3% of the world's surface yet hold 30% of the soil carbon.

 

 

Peatlands cover 3% of the world’s land area – an estimated 4 million km2.

Peatlands are the world’s largest terrestrial carbon stock – storing at least 550 Gigatonnes of carbon globally – more than twice the carbon stored in all the world’s forests.

Peatlands are found in 180 countries worldwide and span across all continents from naturally forested peatlands in Europe and tropical peat swamps in South East Asia, to vast permafrost area of Russia and Canada, and high mountain peatlands in the Andes and Himalayas. 

Distribution of peatland across the world


 

Peatlands are also known as: moors, bogs, mires, peat swamp forests, permafrost tundra, peat moss, muskegs, fens… 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: Estimated distribution of peatlands across the world.

Sphagnum moss harvesting at trial site, Greifswald Mire Centre © Tobias Dahms
Wet agriculture - a tool in the climate action toolboxWith the urgent need to reduce our carbon emissions wherever possible, complimenting traditional…
Money for peatland restoration
Budget announcements for UK peatland restoration Peatlands received a welcome funding boost in the UK Budget 2020.  In a move to support the…
Peatlands in the EU post CAP
Peatlands in the UK beyond Common Agriculture Policy (CAP)The IUCN UK Peatland Programme continues to feed into the international peatland agenda, recently…
Afforested peatland restoration at Forsinard  © Neil Cowie/RSPB
Peatland & Trees position statement releasedThe IUCN UK Peatland Programme have released a position statement and recommendations on Trees on…
Caithness Wildfire, 2019 © Paul Turner
Burning & Peatlands Position StatementThe IUCN UK Peatland Programme have updated our position statement on Burning and Peatlands which…
Dubh lochans and blanket bog at The Flows NNR near Forsinard, Caithness. June 2011 ©Lorne Gill/SNH/2020VISION
Scottish Budget 2020-21The Scottish Government announces £20 million for peatland restoration and a commitment to invest £…
Land use: policies for a Net Zero UK CCC report
Committee on Climate Change Report on Land Use: Policies for a Net Zero UKThe IUCN UK Peatland Programme welcomes strengthened policy and legislative recommendations in the…
Multiple effects of peatland drainage
New resource available: Explaining the impact of peatland drainage.Illustrating the multiple effects of peatland drainage including implications for carbon emissions…
Managed burning of heather © North Pennines AONB
A burning issue: comparison between Australian & UK fire management misses the mark. The news of the ongoing Australian fires is deeply concerning both in terms of the impact on people…
IUCN Resolution 43 reporting
IUCN Resolution 43 reportingNew report on progress under IUCN Resolution 43: Securing the future of global peatlands available…
Langlands Moss Restoration works underway
Langlands Moss Restoration works underwayLanglands Moss Local Nature Reserve, on the south edge of East Kilbride, Scotland is set to be…
Snowdonia Society volunteers creating heather bale dams on the Migneint, Snowdonia. © Dan Struthers Photography
Working together for the future of Welsh peatlandsA major programme of works is underway this season to restore peatlands across Wales. A large…