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Peatlands

What is a peat bog? 

A peat bog is a very wet area of land where decomposition rates are slow and many types of moss and epiphytes are able to grow. A combination of low oxygen levels and lots of moisture means that plant material does not rot and instead compresses into acidic peat soil which nurtures a range of important and unique plants. These ecosystems are essential for biodiversity across the UK. 

Picture of peatlands in the UK

Why should we prevent the destruction and removal of peat bogs? 

Peat bog are the nature’s wonder habitat! 

Peat bogs are known to store high levels of carbon, helping in the fight against climate change. This means that removing them from our landscape could release a large volume of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect. Furthermore, peat bogs take a very long time to develop and form, meaning they are a non-renewable energy source. Once removed, peat bogs are very difficult to reintroduce into nature.

Peat bogs also ensure a high quality supply of water to much of the population in the North West. 

A healthy peat bog reduces fire risk and reduces the risk of flooding with sphagnum moss the work horse of the bog holding over ten times its weight in water. 

And last but not least, moorlands and peat bogs provide a place to breathe and play. 

What is happening to UK peat bogs?

The UK is host to 13% of all the world’s blanket bog and yet much of this has experienced long term decline.  

98% of the lowland peatlands across Lancashire, Greater Manchester and North Merseyside have already been destroyed. The key threats to peat bogs are:

– Draining: turning peat bogs into grassland or woodland by removing moisture.

– Agriculture: peat soil is very low in nutrients. Once fertiliser is added to a peat bog, the nutrients are difficult to remove, making it challenging to restore fertilised peatlands.

– Development: peat bogs are often targeted for housing and infrastructure projects due to their perceived disposable nature.

– Misinformation: peat bogs are seen as having little environmental value. This is certainly not the case.

What is being done? 

There is fantastic work going on right across the North west to restore this vital habitat.

In the Peaks and South Pennines Moors for the Future are working to restore peat here. 

The Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside Wildlife Trusts are also in the process of protecting and restoring peatlands across the region. They work alongside reserve staff, volunteers and a conservation team to re-wet peatland landscapes by building dams and bunds to raise water levels.

For more detail check out these links – 

Lancashire mosslands  and Lancashire peatland restoration projects and how you might get involved.

At home, there is plenty you can do as well! 

  1. Only buy peat-free compost and potted plants
  2. Tell your friends and family about the issue and encourage them to go peat-free;
  3. Ask your local retailers to stock and promote more peat-free choices, to make it easier for consumers to go peat-free (if these are national companies, please also email or write to their headquarters)
  4. Write to your MP to raise concern about the need for more urgent action by the government and industry
  5. Support organisations that are pushing for peat-free horticulture, including Plant life UK who is campaigning for a ban on the extraction and selling of peat compost across the UK. 

Want to know more? 

Friends of the Earth’s recently published paper on Peat- Why peat is good for the climate and nature, is a great place to start. 

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