RSPB Scotland's Erica Mason discusses the importance of peat and the damaging practices which threaten our peat ecosystems.

For peat's sake, buy peat free

We live in a peaty country and that peat is incredibly precious. Healthy peat ecosystems like this are the most powerful carbon sinks on Earth, storing up to 30% of the Earth’s terrestrial carbon. However, when these ecosystems are damaged, biodiversity is lost and they release carbon equivalent to 10% of the Earth’s global emissions.

The Scottish Government has recognised the importance of peatlands by committing to an investment of over £250 million in peatland restoration over the next 10 years. This will hopefully enable the development of large-scale, multi-year projects to restore large areas of our damaged peatlands.

This investment, which signals the government’s recognition of the importance of peatlands is very welcome. But it is only a start. Even that substantial amount of money will not restore all of Scotland’s degraded peatland. Simply committing money to peatland restoration will also not solve the problem. We need a coherent approach to peatland policy that brings an end to damaging practices like burning and extraction, which create the need for restoration in the first place.

Ending damaging practices like burning or the commercial extraction of peat for horticulture, which takes place on some of our lowland bogs, requires action from the Scottish Government and we want to see them take action quickly.

But in the absence of that action from government there is something you can do: stop buying compost with peat in it. Just as we know that when people demand change of their governments, change happens, when demand for products like compost with peat decrease, so do the practices that contribute to their products.

We are asking you to take the Peat Free Pledge. Share a video or message like the one below telling us how you feel about peat extraction and promising not to buy compost with peat in it. Post it on your Facebook or Twitter account and be sure to tag @RSPBScotland. We can do a lot more to preserve and protect our peatlands, but the first small step is to show producers and the government that you are not interested in products that contribute to their destruction.

Healthy, thriving peatland is not only a nature-based solution to climate change, it is a unique ecosystem with irreplaceable biodiversity that enriches human life in myriad ways.