Peat & Burning

Image: Langlands Nature Reserve, 2017
© Marc McLean

Peat & Burning

The topic of burning was a key consideration in the IUCN UK Peatland Programme (IUCN UK PP) Commission of Inquiry on Peatlands (Bain et al. 2011) and led to a summary briefing on Burning on Peatlands. A more recent IUCN UK PP publication, Briefing Note 8: Burning, summarised the scientific evidence from an ecological perspective, following Natural England's Upland Evidence Review: Managed Burning and RSPB's commissioned assessment of Peatbogs and Carbon.

Key points from these publications, which are addressed in our full position statement included:

  • The available evidence indicates that burning on peatland can result in damage to peatland species and habitats, peat soils and peatland ecosystem functions.
  • Healthy peatlands do not require burning for their maintenance.
  • Restoration management of peatlands is widely achieved without burning. Restoration is also achieved in situations where previous burning management has been stopped.
  • Inconsistent approaches in scientific methodology for assessing impacts of burning management on peatlands has led to confused interpretation of the results.
  • Where there is uncertainty around the benefits of burning on peatland restoration, application of the precautionary principle would require that burning should be avoided.
  • The most effective long term sustainable solution for assessing wildfire risk on peatlands is to return the sites to fully functioning bog habitat by removing those factors that can cause degradation, such as drainage, livestock management and burning regimes.

 

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