UK Peatlands

The UK has nearly 3 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 – nearly three 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:

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.  
 

Dawn at Marches Mosses by Stephen Barlow
Marches Mosses marks 30-year milestone in fight against climate change An internationally important lowland raised peat bog between England and Wales celebrates its 30th…
Virtual Peatland Pavilion
Virtual Peatland Pavilion for COP26 UNFCCCWe are delighted to launch a new dome in the Virtual Peatland Pavilion for COP26 UNFCCC.
Peat-free Horticulture: Demonstrating Success
New report shows peat-free opportunity for horticulture industry'Peat-free Horticulture – Demonstrating Success' is now the third publication in the series and was…
Peatland Pavilion at COP26
Peatland Pavilion at UNFCCC COP26 - Online Registration openThe Peatland Pavilion at UNFCCC COP26 will highlight the importance of global peatlands for the…
A virtual tour will include peatland restoration research at SRUC's Kirkton and Auchtertyre farms.
Climate solutions from peatlands to parasitesAs world leaders arrive in Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), scientific experts…
Figure 2
Research reveals a quarter of Europe’s peatlands are degraded, ahead of key climate and biodiversity summitsNew research finds that 25% of Europe’s peatlands are degraded, increasing to 50% -120,000km2- when…
MFFP image
Peak District study reveals depths of carbon stored in threatened landscapesWith the UN Climate Conference (COP26) being held in Glasgow in under one months’ time, a new study…
WaterLANDS logo
WaterLANDS: New European Green Deal project launched to lead largescale restoration of European wetlandsAn ambitious project has been launched to tackle largescale restoration of Europe’s wetlands, with…
A detail from the map indicating areas of the highest carbon potential (in red) derived from the peat motion map covering the period 2016-21.  Potential carbon savings and their market value per annum are indicated for the different areas highlighted.
Satellite Map Identifies Peatland Areas where Restoration has the Greatest Carbon ImpactPeatland organisations and experts from across the globe have joined together to pledge their…
Peatland Pavilion concept
Peatland Pavilion will feature at UN Climate Change Conference (COP26)The Peatland Pavilion will provide a hub for highlighting the important role that peatlands play…
Bord na mona
United Nations recognizes major Irish Peatland Restoration initiativeDianna Kopansky of the United Nations Environment Programme has recognised the initiative led by…
GPI logo
Open call! Your opportunity to participate as a Contributing Author for the GPI’s upcoming Global Peatlands AssessmentThe Global Peatlands Initiative are currently looking for Contributing Authors (CAs) to participate…