UK Peatlands

The UK has over 2 million hectares of peatlands - one of the world's top ten countries for peatland area.

Image: Bodmin Moor, Cornwall © Andrew Turner

UK Peatlands

Percentage Peatland cover across UK

Covering around 10% of the UK land area – over two million hectares, peatland habitat can be discovered in the most remote corners of the country, but also near the major centres of human population with livelihoods often intimately connected to their fate.

Whether managed for farming, sport or as a nature reserve, peatlands can provide a tranquil retreat and include
some of the country’s most important protected areas for their species and outstanding natural beauty. 

Appreciation of the wide ranging impacts and benefits of peatlands is relatively recent and as a consequence the majority have been historically managed in a way that has left them in a damaged state, with an estimated 80% of UK peatlands in some way affected.
 

 

 

 

 

 

There are three broad peatland types in the UK: Blanket bog, raised bog and fen. 

Three broad peatland types in the UK

Bogs develop in cool wet oceanic climates and are fed only by rainwater (ombrotrophic) so are nutrient-poor and acidic. Bogs are found either:

  • In relatively small isolated areas in the lowlands where peat has accumulated up to 10m over 10,000 years – Raised Bogs 

Or

  • Extensive areas where peat has formed a mantle across lowland, or more commonly upland landscapes – Blanket Bog. 

Peat has been forming across comparably wetter and more topographically variable UK uplands (as oppose to lowlands) for about 5-6,000 years creating landscapes where peat depth can vary from a few centimetres to an average maximum peat depth of 6 metres within a distance of less than 50-100 metres.


Bogs support a less diverse range of species than other wetlands but contain many unique species that are specialised to bog peatlands. Compare with Fen. 


Bogs are the most widespread semi-natural habitat in the UK but blanket bog is globally rare - with 13% of the world’s blanket bog found in the UK they are of international importance.  

Areas where peat has formed which are fed by surface and groundwater - containing nutrients from the underlying geology in which it has been in contact with - as well as rainwater (minerotrophic) are called Fens.

Types of fen can vary from base-poor fens which are associated with acidic water (pH 5 or less) which has been in contact with sandstone or granite for example, to base-rich fens which are associated with water (pH 5 or more) which has been in contact with limestone for example.  
 

Belfast Skyline (c) Visit Belfast
2019 Conference - Ticket Sales Now OpenIUCN UK Peatland Programme Conference 2019 - Peatlands: Investing in the Future 1st - 3rd October…
Richard Payne
A tribute to Richard Payne The IUCN UK Peatlands Programme team were all saddened to hear the shocking news about the death of…
Image of sphagnum in pool © Joe Holden
Sphagnum is a key ingredient of natural flood managementIn 2008 iCASP published research that showed how water running over Sphagnum on blanket peatlands…
Image of V-notch in ply-sheet dam © Emma Shuttleworth
Peat restoration and natural flood managementThe Upland Environments Research Unit at the University of Manchester has been working closely with…
Image of bog vegetation © Dom Hinchley
New edition of Conserving Bogs: The Management HandbookA new edition of Conserving Bogs: The Management Handbook is now available. Conserving Bogs: The…
Rob Stoneman at the House of Commons flanked by Rob Brown and Julian Sturdy
Managing the Uplands for Public Benefit House of Commons ReceptionOver 48 representatives from across the peatland community in the UK as well as MPs and Peers…
Large heath butterfly
Peatland biodiversity - butterflies & mothsAt Butterfly Conservation we understand the great value of healthy functioning peatlands for…
Cover of GHG emissions inventory
Inclusion of peatlands in the UK's GHG emissions inventory publishedThe long-awaited report on inclusion of peatlands in the UK’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions…
Marsden Moor fire © BBC News
Record breaking Spring temperatures exacerbate wildfire outbreaks across the UKThe summer heatwave of 2018 was accompanied by wildfires across the UK with a major incident…
Staff from RSPB, Scottish Water and the contractor, McGowan Ltd, discuss the successful works at Moss of Kinmundy
Ugie Peatland Partnership welcomes restoration of local bogBog restoration works are expected to benefit local water quality and nature, as well as contribute…
Delgates at the policy and practice workshop
New initiative to combine data across studies and sites to better inform peatland policy and practice Researchers, practitioners and policy-makers from across Europe, whose goal is to understand better…