The Bog Babes are a group of young volunteers based at RSPB Scotland Forsinard Flows. They are dedicated to protecting and restoring the incredible peatland in the Flow Country. In this blog, they explain why peatlands are so important, and what we can do to help.
Peatlands are an incredibly important and beautiful landscape found throughout the UK - 12% of the UK is considered peatland and over 60% of this is found in Scotland! Despite being an invaluable habitat for people and species around the world, peatlands have been forgotten in the past when it comes to protecting our environment. One of the key benefits of peatlands is their ability to capture and store carbon within peat, a process that occurs over decades (just 1mm of peat is formed each year!), and which helps to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Peatlands maintain biodiversity, supporting an impressive array of fungi, plant and animal species, and also regulate water flow through storage of water, minimising the risk of flooding and improving water quality.
Unfortunately, our peatlands are under threat. Many of our peatlands have been drained for forestry or agricultural purposes over several decades, causing the release of stored carbon into the atmosphere as CO2 and increasing the risk of wildfires. In other areas of the UK peat is extracted and burnt for fuel or horticulture. Currently, nearly three million cubic metres of peat is sold each year for horticultural use in people’s gardens. It is a popular choice for gardeners due to its ability to hold water, retain nutrients and maintain soil structure. However, many gardeners may be unaware of the disastrous consequences of their fertiliser choice.
Peat extraction is an incredibly damaging process to the peatlands and further degrades our already vulnerable peatlands. Commercial peat extraction, which involves stripping the land of vegetation and drainage of the area, is entirely unsustainable; just one year of extraction results in the destruction of over 500 years-worth of peat formation. In the UK, losing just 5% of our peatland carbon would be equivalent to the country’s entire annual greenhouse gas emissions.
It is important that we not only protect what peatlands we have left but aim to restore those which we have already damaged. There are many alternatives to horticultural peat use, including compost, coconut coir and woody material.
You can help – by joining the RSPB in our campaign to end the use of horticultural peat, buying peat-free compost and signing our petition, you can proudly take your place in the fight against the destruction of our wonderful peatlands.
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