Day of the Bog: Why are peatlands special and do we need to raise awareness?

July 23, 2020

 

Bog Day has grown from a national awareness day, launched in 2018, to celebrate bogs, fens, swamps & marshes. It is an opportunity to raise awareness of peatlands – the benefits they provide, the threats they face and the ways we can all help to protect them. Bog Day is now celebrated internationally every 4th Sunday in July, this year taking place on Sunday 26th July 2020


Why are peatlands special and do we need to raise awareness? 

For most people working on peatlands the ‘Why?’, even on a bad day, is clear. From desk-bound Project Managers to Gamekeepers, from Public Engagement Officers to Academic Researchers there is something about peatlands that makes them enticing, interesting or important places. We are somewhat unique.      

For the majority of people their association with peat is with dark, damp bags of compost, with the earthy taste of a peated malt or the acrid smell of a peat brick fire. Even though peatlands include the largest semi-natural habitats in the UK and are of significant recreation value, many of the estimated 87 million visitors a year  don’t know they are standing on a peatland or appreciate the need to conserve and restore these valuable habitats. That isn’t to say that visitors don’t enjoy or value their experience. But, if we are to ensure the value of peatlands is better understood and prioritised for restoration and conservation at a strategic level, people need to know what peatlands are and to be inspired by their ability to help us thrive. Legislators; local authority planners; retailers; growers; gardeners; peatland managers and leaders of the future need to know that we depend on healthy peatlands for good quality drinking water; to protect us from floods and wildfires; to provide us with places to live, work and play; for our health and well-being and to help us reach net zero in our fight against climate change. 

Whilst informing policy and decision makers is key so too is reducing the serious risks uniformed visitors pose to peatlands. Use of disposal BBQs is a clear and current example. Awareness raising is an essential part of the insurance policy for peatland restoration works. By understanding and valuing peatlands people are more likely to take better care and mitigate their actions to protect them. 

Education, both formal and informal, vocational training and continued professional development all have a part to play in embedding the value of peatlands. There is room for significant development in all of these sectors across the UK. Effective, accessible convening opportunities which enable the peatland community to share best practice, broad scientific consensus and innovation, and promote political advocacy, are also important to ensure peatland restoration and conservation is based on up-to-date evidence, as well as to connect and inspire those working to deliver this.

There is little substitute for standing on a peatland and finding out for yourself what makes it special. Advances in 3D imaging and virtual reality technology are however helping to bring these sensitive and often remote places indoors so they can be explored and monitored from classrooms, offices and armchairs. Helping to change perceptions of unknown, desolate landscapes into familiar, appreciated habitats.

For more information about events see BogDay.org or search for #BogDay on social media.