Peatlands

 

Peatlands are wetlands with a thick water-logged organic soil layer (peat) made up of dead and decaying plant material. Peatlands include moors, bogs, mires, peat swamp forests and permafrost tundra.

 

Where are Peatlands found?

Peatlands represent half of the Earth’s wetlands and cover 3% of the global total land area. They are found in almost every country in the world. Examples of naturally forested peatlands are the Alder peat forests in Europe and the lowland humid tropical peat swamp forests in Southeast Asia. Small tracts of tropical peatlands are also found in parts of Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean.

 
Examples of naturally open peatlands are the vast permafrost areas of Russia and Canada, the Everglades in the United States, and the high mountain peatlands of the Andes (Paramós) and Himalayas. The following map illustrates the global peatlands' distribution.
 

 

Water storage and regulation

Peatlands are critical for water regulation. A volume of peat soil consists of 90% of water. Peat soils are generally meters deep and they store and maintain large quantities of water. Therefore, peatlands play an important role in protection against floods after heavy rainfall and in ensuring a supply of clean water throughout the year.
 

Peatland biodiversity

In particular, tropical peat swamp forests are home to thousands of animals and plants, including many rare and critically endangered species such as the orangutan and Sumatran Tiger.
 

Peatlands and people

Peatlands are very poor soils for agricultural production and generally support only low population densities. Nevertheless, millions of people depend on peatlands for herding cattle, catching fish, harvesting reeds, farming and non-timber forest products.
 

Peatlands and climate

Peatlands are carbon-rich, containing twice as much carbon stock as the entire forest biomass of the world (550 Gt carbon). When disturbed, peatlands can become significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Read more about peatlands and carbon.
 

Peatland destruction

Drainage, conversion to farmland and fertilisation of peat soils turns peatlands into wastelands within decades due to soil subsidence and fires. Agriculture, forestry and mining have so far destroyed about 25% of the peatlands on Earth (Parish et al., 2008). Large parts of the enormous peatlands of North America and Russia are still relatively intact. However, in many parts of Europe, Central and Southeast Asia, Argentina and Chile, peatlands have been destroyed.
 
Our Work
 

We are dedicated to saving the world’s peatlands. Through our research, field restoration work and advocacy, we promote the conservation and rehabilitation of peatlands. Read more on what we do

 

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