Climate Regulation




Image © Clifton Bain

Climate Regulation

“From a climate perspective, [peatlands] are the most essential terrestrial ecosystem.” Tim Christophersen, Senior Program Officer, Forests and Climate, United Nations Environment Programme

The accumulation and long-term storage of carbon as peat soil sets peatlands apart from other ecosystems: it means that they can play a key role in climate regulation. Much of the UK’s peatland, however, is no longer sequestering and storing carbon as a result of decades of unsuitable land management practices. Instead
damaged peatlands have become a significant net source of greenhouse gases and represent a risk to global climate, emitting over 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) each year - around 4% of the UK’s total annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (Evans et. al, 20171). Preventing further damage and restoring healthy ecosystem function can therefore play an important role in climate regulation within the UK.

 

Peatland function can be repaired through restoration, which aims to return wetland conditions by restoring hydrology: such rewetting is recognised under international climate change agreements as one of the permitted activities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. General values for peatland emissions under different land uses have been agreed by the International Panel on Climate Change enabling countries to include emissions from damaged peatlands and savings from restored areas within national greenhouse gas accounting (IPCC, 20062).


1 Evans, C., Artz, R., Moxley, J., Smyth, M-A., Taylor, E., Archer, N., Burden, A., Williamson, J., Donnelly, D., Thomson, A., Buys, G., Malcolm, H., Wilson, D., Renou-Wilson, F. (2017). Implementation of an emission inventory for UK peatlands. Report to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Bangor.88pp.
IPCC (2006). Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use. In IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (Vol.4). 


Ten million tonnes of carbon dioxide are lost to the atmosphere from the UK’s damaged peatlands each year. There are also concerns about emissions of highly potent greenhouse gas methane from rewetted peatlands.  However, evidence suggests that it is possible to halt the loss of carbon from peatland through habitat restoration, and that methane emissions are likely to be small in relation to the overall greenhouse gas benefits from restoring peatlands. 

The Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Potential review is built upon evidence from a Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) report (in prep) 'Design for a research programme to address evidence gaps in greenhouse gas and carbon flux from UK peatlands' (see LWEC website for more information).

Scientific Review

Please note, the views expressed in this review are those of the authors. The IUCN UK Peatland Programme is not responsible for the content of this review and does not necessarily endorse the views contained within.

  • Download the Peatland Programme briefing on Peatlands and Climate Change. 

Review Team

This Review, undertaken as part of the Commission of Inquiry in 2011, was led by Dr Fred Worrall of Durham University.

 

IUCN UK PP Conference 2021
IUCN UK PP Conference 2021 - Save the dateSave the Dates: 13th - 16th September 2021
Minister Poots pictured with Jennifer Fulton, CEO of Ulster Wildlife
Northern Ireland Peatland Strategy ConsultationEnvironment Minister, Edwin Poots has launched a public consultation on the draft Northern Ireland…
Virtual Peatland Pavilion
Peatland Pavilion proposal for COP26 programmeOpportunity to contribute to and participate in proposing and shaping the first ever dedicated…
Diggers on Bwlch y Groes
Wales’ first carbon-funded peatland restoration project is complete!A peatland restoration project at Bwlch y Groes on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park is the…
England launches Peat Action Plan
England launches Peat Action PlanThe IUCN UK Peatland Programme welcomes the long-awaited publication of the England Peat Action…
Screenshot of PeatDatHub database
Launch of the PeatDataHub PeatDataHub is a research hub for communicating peatland science and managing peatland monitoring…
Eyes on the Bog equipment displayed on Water Works site
Eyes on the Bog monitoring at the Water Works projectJack Clough (University of East London’s) takes us through the process of installing an Eyes on the…
Helicopter flying over Moors for the Future site with restoration materials
Moors for the Future deliver biggest conservation season yet in a challenging yearAgainst a backdrop of ever-changing circumstances and a challenging year for nature, Moors for the…
Musician Sarah Smout on Fleet Moss with her cello
Yorkshire Peat Partnership: A music video on Fleet MossWith the help of Yorkshire Peat Parnership, musician Sarah Smout filmed a music video on Fleet Moss…
Cottongrass on peatland © Marches Mosses BogLIFE Project
Marches Mosses BogLIFE Project and Australian Wetlands Collaboration puts Arts Council England Funding to WorkThe ‘Mosses and Marshes’ project has newly been awarded a grant from Arts Council England.
Sphagnum moss © Moors for the Future Partnership
Study monitors single-species sphagnum plug growth on blanket bogThe study by Moors for the Future Partnership was carried out to discover the most effective…
British Ecological Society nature-based solutions graphic (city and train)
British Ecological Society: Nature-based Solutions for Climate Change in the UK ReportThe British Ecological Society have today published their landmark report offering the first…