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Call to protect peatlands

Photograph showing peat harvesting
a loss of only 5% of the carbon stored in peat would equate to the UK’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions.

The importance of preserving and restoring the UK’s peatlands has been underlined with the publication of the findings of the IUCN UK Commission of Inquiry on Peatlands. Dr Steve Chapman of The James Hutton Institute was scientific coordinator of the Inquiry.

Peatlands are formed over thousands of years from carbon-rich dead and decaying plants in water-logged conditions. Although peatlands cover less than 3% of the land surface of the Earth they contain twice as much carbon as the world’s forests.

The IUCN UK Commission of Inquiry on Peatlands lasted 18 months and involved over 300 individuals and 50 organisations. Its findings present clear evidence of the importance of the UK’s peatlands as a huge carbon store locking up over 3 billion tonnes in the peat.

The Inquiry found that many peatlands have been damaged, largely due to the way they have been managed, resulting in a significant amount of carbon leaking into the atmosphere. This is particularly concerning as a loss of only 5% of the carbon stored in peat would equate to the UK’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Damaged peatlands also impact on the quality of drinking water at source, causing discolouration and an associated increase in treatment costs for water companies and consumers.

Clifton Bain, Director of the IUCN UK Peatland Programme said: “The good news is that this Inquiry has shown that peatland restoration not only benefits wildlife, but has measureable carbon savings, and can quickly reduce the cost of treating drinking water.

“In identifying a clear strategy for action to bring our peatlands back from the brink, the Inquiry points the way forward to avoid the social and environmental costs of further deterioration.”

James Hutton Institute staff Dr Nick Littlewood and Dr Rebekka Artz also worked on the Inquiry along with Dr Chapman.

Notes to editors: The full IUCN UK Commission of Inquiry on Peatlands report and a summary of findings is available at:
www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org/commission/findings

The IUCN UK Commission of Inquiry on Peatlands was launched in early 2010, and is chaired by Martyn Howatt, former director of uplands, Natural England with Dr Steve Chapman of The James Hutton Institute as scientific coordinator.

Details of the Inquiry and evidence gathered can be found at:
www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org/commission

More information from: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).

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Printed from /news/call-protect-peatlands on 22/03/19 04:06:51 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.