Burning & Peatlands Position Statement

March 31, 2020

The IUCN UK Peatland Programme have updated our position statement on Burning and Peatlands which sets out the precautionary principle and clearly recommends that burning should not occur on peatlands. This is a view based on the best available evidence. The updated position statement makes several changes and additions to the original statement released in May 2017 and seeks to provide clarity regarding the IUCN UK Peatland Programme’s position on both managed burning and addressing wildfire risk. 

Key points:

  1. The current body of available scientific evidence indicates that burning on peatland can result in damage to peatland species, microtopography and wider peatland habitat, peat soils and peatland ecosystem functions.
  2. Healthy peatlands do not require burning for their maintenance.
  3. Restoration management of peatlands is widely achieved without burning. Restoration is also achieved in situations where previous burning management has been stopped.
  4. Inconsistent approaches in scientific methodology for assessing impacts of burning management on peatlands has led to difficulties in interpreting and comparing results from studies and has led to widespread misunderstandings in the wider stakeholder community.
  5. Where there is uncertainty around the benefits of burning for peatland restoration, the precautionary principle should be applied and burning avoided.
  6. The most effective long-term sustainable solution for addressing 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, unsustainable livestock management and burning regimes. Re-wetting and restoring will naturally remove the higher fuel load from degraded peatland vegetation.
  7. There is a need for further research to support the development of practical guidance in managing wildfire risk for peatlands which are in transition to a wet and naturally fire resilient state.

For more information see: about-peatlands/peatland-damage/burning-peatlands