Rio+20 begins today.  Our Senior Land Use Policy Officer (Climate), Jim Densham, discusses the global importance of Scotland's peat.

Scotland's rainforest 

Climate Change Minister Stewart Stevenson MSP and Secretary of State Caroline Spelman MP visited a Brazilian rainforest on Monday as part of their Rio+20 visit. We organised this little jaunt for them to highlight the value of tropical forests for climate change and conservation.

Peatlands have been described as Scotland’s rainforest because of the massive amount of carbon they store. Scotland’s peatlands hold 1620 million tonnes of carbon – this is ten times the amount of carbon as that stored in all of the UK’s woodland. They are home to some of our most special and precious wildlife, including red-throated diver, hen harrier, otter, mountain hare and sundew. But, like rainforest it is too easily damaged or destroyed by human activity. Peatlands have been drained, overgrazed, had trees inappropriately planted on them and even dug up and made into garden compost. All these activities, and more, dry the peat, change the vegetation and stop it being a peat-forming ‘living’ bog. It also releases carbon to the atmosphere and contributes to climate change. Scotland has a huge 1.8million ha of blanket bog, 80% of the UK’s total, but only 30% are in good condition. There is even more shallower peat, lowland bogs and peaty soils, all at risk from poor management.

Forsinard Flows nature reserve (Photo: Andy Hay rspb-images.com)

We are asking the Scottish Government to commit effort and funding to help restore 600,000 hectares of blanket bog in Scotland within 10 years. Blocking drainage ditches, managing sheep numbers, removing trees from blanket bog are all essential activities which would help wildlife return, reduce water pollution and lock up carbon. Find out more about how we have been leading the way to restore peatland habitats at our Forsinard Flows nature reserve. If you want to know more about the policies affecting peatland restoration here is a link to a report from last year.

We wouldn’t be able to save special places like peatlands or rainforests without you. Please show your support for Scotland’s peatlands at http://www.rspb.org.uk/supporting/campaigns/flowcountry/ and for tropical forests at www.rspb.org.uk/rainforests.

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