Five facts about peatlands

RSPB Scotland’s Allie McGregor shares five facts about peatlands.

Five facts about peatlands

The UK has about 13% of the world’s blanket bog

Scotland has around 1.7 million hectares of peatland, which is around 60% of the UK’s peatland. The blanket bogs found The Flow Country are some of the largest and most intact in the world.

Peatlands support incredible biodiversity

Some of Scotland’s birds benefit greatly from peatland habitat as well such as golden plover, black-throated diver, greenshank, short-eared owl and dunlin. Blanket bogs are often protected sites for birds such as merlins and hen harriers.

black throated diver flies across some water
Black-throated diver at RSPB Forsinard Flows. Credit: Andy Hay ( 

They also support a wealth of invertebrates such as dragonflies and butterflies and many rare native plants.

Sphagnum mosses can hold up to 20 times their weight in water.

These mosses, of which there are hundreds of species worldwide, are a key part of the creation of peat bogs. By holding water they prevent the decay of dead plant material, which gets compressed over centuries and eventually becomes peat!

close up of water grasses and moss
Eleanor Bentall (

Peatlands act as a carbon store…

Blanket bogs take in more carbon than they produce. They cover only a tiny amount (3%) of the planet’s land surface, yet peatlands hold almost 30% of all terrestrial carbon. Restoring and protecting peatlands will be a key tool in using nature-based solutions to manage the climate emergency.

But it can also be a major source of carbon emissions

When peatland is damaged, degraded or drained it releases carbon dioxide, becoming a source of greenhouse gas emissions.

After decades of mismanagement, overgrazing, burning, drainage and peat extraction much of our peatlands across the UK are in a damaged and deteriorating state. It is vital that we sustainably manage and restore peatlands to minimise emissions from degraded peatland.


You can find out about some of our peatland restoration work here:


If you want to learn more about Peat and climate change check out these blogs:

Peatland: A Nature-Based Solution to Climate Change

Peatland: A Burning Issue