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Peat stacks in Sudmoslesfehn (district of Oldenburg, Germany) in 2013 2013-05-03 Fotoflug Leer Papenburg DSCF6844.jpg
Peat stacks in Südmoslesfehn (district of Oldenburg, Germany) in 2013
Peat gatherers at Westhay, Somerset Levels in 1905 Peat gatherers.JPG
Peat gatherers at Westhay, Somerset Levels in 1905
Peat in Lewis, Scotland Peat Lewis.jpg
Peat in Lewis, Scotland
Peat extraction in East Frisia, Germany Torfabbau-.jpg
Peat extraction in East Frisia, Germany

Peat ( /pt/ ), also known as turf ( /tɜːrf/ ), is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter. It is unique to natural areas called peatlands, bogs, mires, moors, or muskegs. [1] [2] The peatland ecosystem is the most efficient carbon sink on the planet, [2] [3] because peatland plants capture CO2 naturally released from the peat, maintaining an equilibrium. In natural peatlands, the "annual rate of biomass production is greater than the rate of decomposition", but it takes "thousands of years for peatlands to develop the deposits of 1.5 to 2.3 m [4.9 to 7.5 ft], which is the average depth of the boreal [northern] peatlands". [2] Sphagnum moss, also called peat moss, is one of the most common components in peat, although many other plants can contribute. The biological features of Sphagnum mosses act to create a habitat aiding peat formation, a phenomenon termed 'habitat manipulation'. [4] Soils consisting primarily of peat are known as histosols. Peat forms in wetland conditions, where flooding or stagnant water obstructs the flow of oxygen from the atmosphere, slowing the rate of decomposition. [5]


Peatlands, particularly bogs, are the primary source of peat, [6] although less-common wetlands including fens, pocosins, and peat swamp forests also deposit peat. Landscapes covered in peat are home to specific kinds of plants including Sphagnum moss, ericaceous shrubs, and sedges (see bog for more information on this aspect of peat). Because organic matter accumulates over thousands of years, peat deposits provide records of past vegetation and climate by preserving plant remains, such as pollen. This allows the reconstruction of past environments and study changes in land use. [7]

Peat is harvested as a source of fuel in certain parts of the world. By volume, there are about 4 trillion cubic metres (5.2 trillion cubic yards) of peat in the world, covering a total of around 2% of the global land area (about 3 million square kilometres or 1.2 million square miles), containing about 8 billion terajoules of energy. [8] Over time, the formation of peat is often the first step in the geological formation of fossil fuels such as coal, particularly low-grade coal such as lignite. [9]

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) classifies peat as neither a fossil fuel nor a renewable fuel, and notes that its emission characteristics are similar to fossil fuels. [10] At 106 g CO2/MJ, [11] the carbon dioxide emission intensity of peat is higher than that of coal (at 94.6 g CO2/MJ) and natural gas (at 56.1) (IPCC). Peat is not a renewable source of energy, due to its extraction rate in industrialized countries far exceeding its slow regrowth rate of 1 mm per year, [12] and as it is also reported that peat regrowth takes place only in 30–40% of peatlands. [13]


Peat forms when plant material does not fully decay in acidic and anaerobic conditions. It is composed mainly of wetland vegetation: principally bog plants including mosses, sedges, and shrubs. As it accumulates, the peat holds water. This slowly creates wetter conditions that allow the area of wetland to expand. Peatland features can include ponds, ridges, and raised bogs. [6] The characteristics of some bog plants actively promote bog formation. For example, Sphagnum mosses actively secrete tannins, which preserve organic material. Sphagnum also have special water retaining cells, known as Hyaline cells, which can release water ensuring the bogland remains constantly wet which helps promote peat production. [14]

Most modern peat bogs formed 12,000 years ago in high latitudes after the glaciers retreated at the end of the last ice age. [15] Peat usually accumulates slowly at the rate of about a millimetre per year. [12] The estimated carbon content is 547 GtC (Northern Peatlands), 50 GtC (Tropical Peatlands) and 15 GtC (South America). [16]

Types of peat material

Peat material is either fibric, hemic, or sapric. Fibric peats are the least decomposed and consist of intact fibre. Hemic peats are partially decomposed and sapric are the most decomposed. [17]

Phragmites peat are composed of reed grass, Phragmites australis, and other grasses. It is denser than many other types of peat.

Engineers may describe a soil as peat which has a relatively high percentage of organic material. This soil is problematic because it exhibits poor consolidation properties – it cannot be easily compacted to serve as a stable foundation to support loads, such as roads or buildings.

Peatlands distribution

In a widely cited article, Joosten and Clarke (2002) defined peatlands or mires (which they claim are the same) [Notes 1] [1] as,

...the most widespread of all wetland types in the world, representing 50 to 70% of global wetlands. They cover over 4 million square kilometres [1.5 million square miles] or 3% of the land and freshwater surface of the planet. In these ecosystems are found one third of the world's soil carbon and 10% of global freshwater resources. These ecosystems are characterized by the unique ability to accumulate and store dead organic matter from Sphagnum and many other non-moss species, as peat, under conditions of almost permanent water saturation. Peatlands are adapted to the extreme conditions of high water and low oxygen content, of toxic elements and low availability of plant nutrients. Their water chemistry varies from alkaline to acidic. Peatlands occur on all continents, from the tropical to boreal and Arctic zones from sea level to high alpine conditions.

Joosten and Clarke 2002
PEATMAP is a GIS shapefile dataset shows a distribution of peatlands that covers the entire world PEATMAP.jpg
PEATMAP is a GIS shapefile dataset shows a distribution of peatlands that covers the entire world

A more recent estimate from an improved global peatland map, PEATMAP, [18] based on a meta-analysis of geospatial information at global, regional and national levels puts global coverage slightly higher than earlier peatland inventories at 4.23 million square kilometres (1.63 million square miles) approximately 2.84% of the world land area. [19] In Europe, peatlands extend to about 515,000 km2 (199,000 sq mi). [20] About 60% of the world's wetlands are made of peat.

Peat deposits are found in many places around the world, including northern Europe and North America. The North American peat deposits are principally found in Canada and the Northern United States. Some of the world's largest peatlands include the West Siberian Lowland, the Hudson Bay Lowlands, and the Mackenzie River Valley. [21] There is less peat in the Southern Hemisphere, in part because there is less land. That said, the vast Magellanic Moorland in South America (Southern Patagonia/Tierra del Fuego) is an extensive peat-dominated landscape. [21] Peat can be found in New Zealand, Kerguelen, the Falkland Islands, and Indonesia (Kalimantan [Sungai Putri, Danau Siawan, Sungai Tolak], Rasau Jaya [West Kalimantan], and Sumatra). Indonesia has more tropical peatlands and mangrove forests than any other nation on earth, but Indonesia is losing wetlands by 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) per year. [22]

About 7% of all peatlands have been exploited for agriculture and forestry. [23] Under proper conditions, peat will turn into lignite coal over geologic periods of time.

General characteristics and uses

A peat stack in Ness on the Isle of Lewis (Scotland) Peat-Stack in Ness, Outer Hebrides, Scotland.jpg
A peat stack in Ness on the Isle of Lewis (Scotland)
Worked bank in blanket bog, near Ulsta, Yell, Shetland Islands Peatcuttingulsta.jpg
Worked bank in blanket bog, near Ulsta, Yell, Shetland Islands
Falkland Islanders shovelling peat in the 1950s Shovel-Falklands.jpg
Falkland Islanders shovelling peat in the 1950s
Peat fire Feu de tourbe.JPG
Peat fire

Under pressure, water is forced out of peat, which is soft and easily compressed, and once dry can be used as fuel. In many countries, including Ireland and Scotland, peat was traditionally stacked to dry in rural areas and used for cooking and domestic heating.

Although humans have many uses for peat, it presents severe problems at times. Wet or dry, it can be a major fire hazard.[ citation needed ] Peat fires may burn for great lengths of time, or smoulder underground and reignite after winter if an oxygen source is present. Because they are easily compressed under minimal weight, peat deposits pose major difficulties to builders of structures, roads, and railways. When the West Highland railway line was built across Rannoch Moor in western Scotland, its builders had to float the tracks on a multi-thousand-ton mattress of tree roots, brushwood, earth and ash.

Peatland can also be an important source of drinking water providing nearly 4% of all potable water stored in reservoirs. In the UK, more than 28 million people use drinking water from water sources which rely on peatlands. [24]

In the Bronze and Iron Ages, people used peat bogs for rituals to nature gods and spirits. [25] Bodies of the victims of such sacrifices have been found in various places in Scotland, England, Ireland, and especially northern Germany and Denmark. They are almost perfectly preserved by the tanning properties of the acidic water (see Tollund Man for one of the most famous examples of a bog body). Peat wetlands also used to have a degree of metallurgical importance in the Early Middle Ages, being the primary source of bog iron used to create swords and armour.[ citation needed ] Many peat swamps along the coast of Malaysia serve as a natural means of flood mitigation, with any overflow being absorbed by the peat, provided forests are still present to prevent peat fires.[ citation needed ]

Characteristics and uses by nation


The Toppila Power Station, a peat-fired facility in Oulu, Finland Toppila power plant.JPG
The Toppila Power Station, a peat-fired facility in Oulu, Finland

The climate, geography, and environment of Finland favours bog and peat bog formation. Thus, peat is available in considerable quantities. This abundant resource (often mixed with wood at an average of 2.6%) is burned to produce heat and electricity. Peat provides around 6.2% of Finland's annual energy production, second only to Ireland. [26] The contribution of peat to greenhouse gas emissions of Finland can exceed 10 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year – equal to the total emissions of all passenger-car traffic in Finland.

Finland classifies peat as a slowly renewing biomass fuel. [27] [ better source needed ] Peat producers in Finland often claim that peat is a special form of biofuel because of the relatively fast retake rate of released CO2 if the bog is not forested for the following 100 years.[ citation needed ] Also, agricultural and forestry-drained peat bogs actively release more CO2 annually than is released in peat energy production in Finland. The average regrowth rate of a single peat bog, however, is indeed slow, from 1,000 up to 5,000 years. Furthermore, it is a common practice to forest used peat bogs instead of giving them a chance to renew. This leads to lower levels of CO2 storage than the original peat bog.

At 106 g CO2/MJ, [28] the carbon dioxide emissions of peat are higher than those of coal (at 94.6 g CO2/MJ) and natural gas (at 56.1). According to one study, increasing the average amount of wood in the fuel mixture from the current 2.6% to 12.5% would take the emissions down to 93 g CO2/MJ. That said, little effort is being made to achieve this. [29]

The International Mire Conservation Group (IMCG) in 2006 urged the local and national governments of Finland to protect and conserve the remaining pristine peatland ecosystems. This includes the cessation of drainage and peat extraction in intact mire sites and the abandoning of current and planned groundwater extraction that may affect these sites. A proposal for a Finnish peatland management strategy was presented to the government in 2011, after a lengthy consultation phase. [30]


Industrial-milled peat production in a section of the Bog of Allen in the Irish Midlands: The 'turf' in the foreground is machine-produced for domestic use. BordnaMona 2930.jpg
Industrial-milled peat production in a section of the Bog of Allen in the Irish Midlands: The 'turf' in the foreground is machine-produced for domestic use.

In Ireland, large-scale domestic and industrial peat usage is widespread.[ citation needed ] In the Republic of Ireland, a state-owned company called Bord na Móna is responsible for managing peat extraction. It processes the extracted peat into milled peat which is used in power stations[ citation needed ] and sells processed peat fuel in the form of peat briquettes which are used for domestic heating. These are oblong bars of densely compressed, dried, and shredded peat. Peat moss is a manufactured product for use in garden cultivation. Turf (dried out peat sods) is also commonly used in rural areas.


Shatura Power Station. Russia has the largest peat power capacity in the world Shatura steam power plant (2010).jpg
Shatura Power Station. Russia has the largest peat power capacity in the world

Use of peat for energy production was prominent in the Soviet Union, especially in 1965. In 1929, over 40% of the Soviet Union's electric energy came from peat, which dropped to 1% by 1980.

The Bor Peat Briquette Factory, Russia Peat Briquette Factory.jpg
The Bor Peat Briquette Factory, Russia

In the 1960s, larger sections of swamps and bogs in Western Russia were drained for agricultural and mining purposes. [31] Plans are underway to increase peat output and increase peat's contribution to Russian energy generation. [32] There is concern about the environmental impact as peat fields are flammable, drainage degrades ecosystems, and burning of peat releases carbon dioxide. [32] Due to 2010 forest and peat fires, the Russian government is under heavy pressure to finance re-flooding of the previously drained bogs around Moscow. The initial costs for the programme are estimated to be about 20 to 25 billion rubles; that is close to 500 million euros (540 million USD).

Currently, Russia is responsible for 17% of the world's peat production and 20% of that peat (1.5 million tons) is used for energy purposes. [33] [34] [ better source needed ] Shatura Power Station in Moscow Oblast and Kirov Power Station in Kirov Oblast are the two largest peat power stations in the world.

The Netherlands

Peat covered area (brown) 2500 years BP in the Netherlands 500vc ex leg copy.jpg
Peat covered area (brown) 2500 years BP in the Netherlands

2500 years ago, the area now named the Netherlands was largely covered with peat. Drainage, causing compaction and oxidation and excavation have reduced peatlands (>40 cm peat) to about 2,733 km2 (1,055 sq mi) [35] or 10% of the land area, mostly used as meadows. Drainage and excavation have lowered the surface of the peatlands. In the west of the country dikes and mills were built, creating polders so that dwelling and economic activities could continue below sea level, the first polder probably in 1533 [36] and the last one in 1968. Harvesting of peat could continue in suitable locations as the lower peat layers below current sea level became exposed. This peat was deposited before the rise of the sea level in the Holocene. As a result, approximate 26% of its area [37] and 21% of its population [38] of the Netherlands are presently below sea level. The deepest point is in the Zuidplaspolder, 6.76 m (22.2 ft) below average sea level.

The Netherlands compared to sealevel The Netherlands compared to sealevel.png
The Netherlands compared to sealevel

In 2018, the Netherlands imported 2,252 million kg of peat (5.63 million m3 (400 kg/m3 dry peat [39] ): 54.2% from Germany, 9.5% from Estonia, 7.8% from Latvia, 7.2% from Ireland, 7.1% from Switzerland, 6.6% from Lithuania and 4.9% from Belgium); 1,185 million kg was exported. [40] Most is used in gardening and greenhouse horticulture.


After oil shale, peat is the second most mined natural resource in Estonia. [41] The peat production sector has a yearly revenue of around €100 million and it is mostly export-oriented. Peat is extracted from around 14 thousand hectares. [42]



The mountains of the Himalaya and Tibetan Plateau contains pockets of high-altitude wetlands. [43] Khecheopalri is one of the Sikkim's most famous and diverse peatlands in the eastern Indian territory of Sikkim, which includes 682 species representing 5 kingdoms, 196 families, and 453 genera. [44]

United Kingdom


The extraction of peat from the Somerset Levels began during the Roman times and has been carried out since the Levels were first drained. [45] On Dartmoor, there were several commercial distillation plants formed and run by the British Patent Naphtha Company in 1844. These produced naphtha on a commercial scale from the high-quality local peat. [46]

Fenn's, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses is an element of a post-Ice Age peat bog that straddles the England–Wales border and contains many rare plant and animal species due to the acidic environment created by the peat. [47] Only lightly hand-dug, it is now a national nature reserve and is being restored to its natural condition.

Industrial extraction of peat occurred at the Thorne Moor site, outside Doncaster near to the village of Hatfield. Government policy incentivised commercial removal to peat for agricultural use. This caused much destruction of the area during the 1980s. The removal of the peat resulted in later flooding further downstream at Goole due to the loss of water retaining peatlands. [48] Recently regeneration of peatland has occurred as part of the Thorne Moors project organised by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, there is small-scale domestic turf cutting in rural areas, but areas of bogs have been diminished because of changes in agriculture. In response, afforestation has seen the establishment of tentative steps towards conservation such as Peatlands Park, County Armagh which is an Area of Special Scientific Interest. [49]


Some Scotch whisky distilleries, such as those on Islay, use peat fires to dry malted barley. The drying process takes about 30 hours. This gives the whiskies a distinctive smoky flavour, often called "peatiness". [50] The peatiness, or degree of peat flavour, of a whisky, is calculated in ppm of phenol. Normal Highland whiskies have a peat level of up to 30 ppm, and the whiskies on Islay usually have up to 50 ppm. In rare types like the Octomore, [51] the whisky can have more than 100 ppm of phenol. Scotch Ales can also use peat roasted malt, imparting a similar smoked flavor.


Canada is the world's biggest exporter of peat. [52]

Generic characteristics and uses


In Sweden, farmers use dried peat to absorb excrement from cattle that are wintered indoors. The most important property of peat is retaining moisture in container soil when it is dry while preventing the excess of water from killing roots when it is wet. Peat can store nutrients although it is not fertile itself – it is polyelectrolytic with a high ion-exchange capacity due to its oxidized lignin. Peat is discouraged as a soil amendment by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England, since 2003. [53] While bark-based peat-free potting soil mixes are on the rise, particularly in the U.K., peat remains an important raw material for horticulture in some other European countries, Canada, as well as parts of the United States. However, it is recommended to treat peat thermally, e.g., through soil steaming in order to kill pests and reactivate nutrients.[ citation needed ]

Freshwater aquaria

Peat is sometimes used in freshwater aquaria. It is seen most commonly in soft water or blackwater river systems such as those mimicking the Amazon River basin. In addition to being soft in texture and therefore suitable for demersal (bottom-dwelling) species such as Corydoras catfish, peat is reported to have a number of other beneficial functions in freshwater aquaria. It softens water by acting as an ion exchanger; it also contains substances that are beneficial for plants, and for the reproductive health of fishes. Peat can prevent algae growth and kill microorganisms. Peat often stains the water yellow or brown due to the leaching of tannins. [54]

Water filtration

Peat is used in water filtration, such as for the treatment of septic tank effluent and for urban runoff.


Peat is widely used in balneotherapy (the use of bathing to treat disease). Many traditional spa treatments include peat as part of peloids. Such health treatments have an enduring tradition in European countries including Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Austria. Some of these old spas date back to the 18th century and are still active today. The most common types of peat application in balneotherapy are peat muds, poultices, and suspension baths. [55]

Peat archives

Authors Rydin and Jeglum in Biology of Habitats described the concept of peat archives, a phrase coined by influential peatland scientist Harry Godwin in 1981. [56] [57] [58]

In a peat profile there is a fossilized record of changes over time in the vegetation, pollen, spores, animals (from microscopic to the giant elk), and archaeological remains that have been deposited in place, as well as pollen, spores and particles brought in by wind and weather. These remains are collectively termed the peat archives.

Rydin, 2013

In Quaternary Palaeoecology, first published in 1980, Birks and Birks described how paleoecological studies "of peat can be used to reveal what plant communities were present (locally and regionally), what time period each community occupied, how environmental conditions changed, and how the environment affected the ecosystem in that time and place." [57] [59]

Scientists continue to compare modern mercury (Hg) accumulation rates in bogs with historical natural-archives records in peat bogs and lake sediments to estimate the potential human impacts on the biogeochemical cycle of mercury, for example. [60] Over the years, different dating models and technologies for measuring date sediments and peat profiles accumulated over the last 100–150 years, have been used, including the widely used vertical distribution of 210Pb, the inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-SMS), [61] and more recently the initial penetration (IP). [62] In some cases, naturally mummified human bodies, often called "bog bodies", such as the Tollund Man in Denmark, having been discovered in 1950 and dated to have lived during the 4th century BC after being mistaken for a recent murder victim, have been discovered and exhumed for scientific purposes; prior to that, another "bog body", the Elling Woman, had been discovered in 1938 in the same bog about 60 m (2000 ft) from the Tollund Man. She is believed to have lived during the late 3rd century BC and was ultimately a ritual sacrifice.

Peat hags

Peat hags at the start of Allt Lagan a' Bhainne tributary on Eilrig Peat haggs at start of Allt Lagan a' Bhainne tributary on Eilrig - - 1420692.jpg
Peat hags at the start of Allt Lagan a' Bhainne tributary on Eilrig

Peat "hags" are a form of erosion that occurs at the sides of gullies that cut into the peat or, sometimes, in isolation. [63] Hags may result when flowing water cuts downwards into the peat and when fire or overgrazing exposes the peat surface. Once the peat is exposed in these ways, it is prone to further erosion by wind, water, and livestock. The result is overhanging vegetation and peat. Hags are too steep and unstable for vegetation to establish itself, so they continue to erode unless restorative action is taken. [63]

Environmental and ecological issues

Increase, and change relative to previous year, of the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide.
Increase, and change relative to previous year, of the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide.

The distinctive ecological conditions of peat wetlands provide a habitat for distinctive fauna and flora. For example, whooping cranes nest in North American peatlands, while Siberian cranes nest in the West Siberian peatland. Such habitats also have many species of wild orchids and carnivorous plants. It takes centuries for a peat bog to recover from disturbance. (For more on biological communities, see wetland, bog or fen.)

The world's largest peat bog is located in Western Siberia. It is the size of France and Germany combined. Recent studies show that it is thawing for the first time in 11,000 years. As the permafrost melts, it could release billions of tonnes of methane gas into the atmosphere. The world's peatlands are thought to contain 180 to 455 billion metric tonnes of sequestered carbon, and they release into the atmosphere 20 to 45 million metric tons of methane annually. The peatlands' contribution to long-term fluctuations in these atmospheric gases has been a matter of considerable debate. [64]

One of the characteristics for peat is the bioaccumulations of metals often concentrated in the peat. Accumulated mercury is of significant environmental concern. [65]

Peat drainage

Large areas of organic wetland (peat) soils are currently drained for agriculture, forestry, and peat extraction. This process is taking place all over the world. This not only destroys the habitat of many species but also heavily fuels climate change. [66] As a result of peat drainage, the organic carbon – which built over thousands of years and is normally underwater – is suddenly exposed to the air. It decomposes and turns into carbon dioxide (CO
), which is released into the atmosphere. [67] The global CO
emissions from drained peatlands have increased from 1,058 Mton in 1990 to 1,298 Mton in 2008 (a 20% increase). This increase has particularly taken place in developing countries, of which Indonesia, China, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea are the fastest-growing top emitters. This estimate excludes emissions from peat fires (conservative estimates amount to at least 4,000 Mton/CO
-eq./yr for south-east Asia). With 174 Mton/CO
-eq./yr the EU is after Indonesia (500 Mton) and before Russia (161 Mton) the world's second-largest emitter of drainage-related peatland CO
(excl. extracted peat and fires). Total CO
emissions from the worldwide 500,000 km2 of degraded peatland may exceed 2.0 Gtons (including emissions from peat fires) which is almost 6% of all global carbon emissions. [68]

Peat fires

Smoke and ozone pollution from Indonesian fires, 1997 TOMS indonesia smog lrg.jpg
Smoke and ozone pollution from Indonesian fires, 1997

Peat has a high carbon content and can burn under low moisture conditions. Once ignited by the presence of a heat source (e.g., a wildfire penetrating the subsurface), it smoulders. These smouldering fires can burn undetected for very long periods of time (months, years, and even centuries) propagating in a creeping fashion through the underground peat layer.

Despite the damage that the burning of raw peat can cause, bogs are naturally subject to wildfires and depend on the wildfires to keep woody competition from lowering the water table and shading out many bog plants. Several families of plants including the carnivorous Sarracenia (trumpet pitcher), Dionaea (Venus flytrap), Utricularia (bladderworts) and non-carnivorous plants such as the sandhills lily, toothache grass and many species of orchid are now threatened and in some cases endangered from the combined forces of human drainage, negligence, and absence of fire. [69] [70] [71]

The recent burning of peat bogs in Indonesia, with their large and deep growths containing more than 50 billion tonnes of carbon, has contributed to increases in world carbon dioxide levels. [72] Peat deposits in Southeast Asia could be destroyed by 2040. [73] [74]

It is estimated that in 1997, peat and forest fires in Indonesia released between 0.81 and 2.57 Gt of carbon; equivalent to 13–40 percent of the amount released by global fossil fuel burning, and greater than the carbon uptake of the world's biosphere. These fires may be responsible for the acceleration in the increase in carbon dioxide levels since 1998. [75] [76] More than 100 peat fires in Kalimantan and East Sumatra have continued to burn since 1997; each year, these peat fires ignite new forest fires above the ground.

In North America, peat fires can occur during severe droughts throughout their occurrence, from boreal forests in Canada to swamps and fens in the subtropical southern Florida Everglades. [77] Once a fire has burnt through the area, hollows in the peat are burnt out, and hummocks are desiccated but can contribute to Sphagnum recolonization. [78]

In the summer of 2010, an unusually high heat wave of up to 40 °C (104 °F) ignited large deposits of peat in Central Russia, burning thousands of houses and covering the capital of Moscow with a toxic smoke blanket. The situation remained critical until the end of August 2010. [79] [80]

In June 2019, despite some forest fire prevention methods being put in place, peat fires [81] in the Arctic emitted 50 megatonnes of CO2, which is equal to Sweden's total annual emissions. [82] The peat fires are linked to climate change, as they are much more likely to occur nowadays due to this effect. [83] [84]


In June 2002, the United Nations Development Programme launched the Wetlands Ecosystem and Tropical Peat Swamp Forest Rehabilitation Project. This project was targeted to last for 5 years, and brings together the efforts of various non-government organisations.

In November 2002, the International Peatland (formerly Peat) Society (IPS) and the International Mire Conservation Group (IMCG) published guidelines on the "Wise Use of Mires and Peatlands – Backgrounds and Principles including a framework for decision-making". The aim of this publication is to develop mechanisms that can balance the conflicting demands on the global peatland heritage, to ensure its wise use to meet the needs of humankind.

In June 2008, the IPS published the book Peatlands and Climate Change, summarising the currently available knowledge on the topic. In 2010, IPS presented a "Strategy for Responsible Peatland Management", which can be applied worldwide for decision-making.

See also


  1. Supported by the "Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS) under the [ Global Peatland Initiative], managed by Wetlands International in co-operation with the IUCN – Netherlands Committee, Alterra, the International Mire Conservation Group and the International Peatland Society."

Related Research Articles

Swamp A forested wetland

A swamp is a forested wetland. Swamps are considered to be transition zones because both land and water play a role in creating this environment. Swamps vary in size and are located all around the world. The water of a swamp may be fresh water, brackish water, or seawater. Freshwater swamps form along large rivers or lakes where they are critically dependent upon rainwater and seasonal flooding to maintain natural water level fluctuations. Saltwater swamps are found along tropical and subtropical coastlines. Some swamps have hammocks, or dry-land protrusions, covered by aquatic vegetation, or vegetation that tolerates periodic inundation or soil saturation. The two main types of swamp are "true" or swamp forests and "transitional" or shrub swamps. In the boreal regions of Canada, the word swamp is colloquially used for what is more correctly termed a bog, fen, or muskeg. Some of the world's largest swamps are found along major rivers such as the Amazon, the Mississippi, and the Congo.

Wetland land area that is permanently or seasonally saturated with water

A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently or seasonally, where oxygen-free processes prevail. The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other land forms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation of aquatic plants, adapted to the unique hydric soil. Wetlands play a number of functions, including water purification, water storage, processing of carbon and other nutrients, stabilization of shorelines, and support of plants and animals. Wetlands are also considered the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, serving as home to a wide range of plant and animal life. Whether any individual wetland performs these functions, and the degree to which it performs them, depends on characteristics of that wetland and the lands and waters near it. Methods for rapidly assessing these functions, wetland ecological health, and general wetland condition have been developed in many regions and have contributed to wetland conservation partly by raising public awareness of the functions and the ecosystem services some wetlands provide.

Fen Type of non-acidic fresh-water wetland

A fen is one of the main types of wetlands, the others being grassy marshes, forested swamps, and peaty bogs. Along with bogs, fens are a kind of mire. Fens are minerotrophic peatlands, usually fed by mineral-rich surface water or groundwater. They are characterised by their distinct water chemistry, which is pH neutral or alkaline, with relatively high dissolved mineral levels but few other plant nutrients. They are usually dominated by grasses and sedges, and typically have brown mosses. Fens frequently have a high diversity of other plant species including carnivorous plants such as Pinguicula. They may also occur along large lakes and rivers where seasonal changes in water level maintain wet soils with few woody plants. The distribution of individual species of fen plants is often closely connected to water regimes and nutrient concentrations.

Bog Type of wetland that accumulates peat due to incomplete decomposition of plant matter

A bog or bogland is a wetland that accumulates peat, a deposit of dead plant material—often mosses, and in a majority of cases, sphagnum moss. It is one of the four main types of wetlands. Other names for bogs include mire, mosses, quagmire, and muskeg; alkaline mires are called fens. A baygall is another type of bog found in the forest of the Gulf Coast states in the USA. They are frequently covered in ericaceous shrubs rooted in the sphagnum moss and peat. The gradual accumulation of decayed plant material in a bog functions as a carbon sink.

Marsh wetland that is dominated by herbaceous rather than woody plant species

A marsh is a wetland that is dominated by herbaceous rather than woody plant species. Marshes can often be found at the edges of lakes and streams, where they form a transition between the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. They are often dominated by grasses, rushes or reeds. If woody plants are present they tend to be low-growing shrubs, and then sometimes called carrs. This form of vegetation is what differentiates marshes from other types of wetland such as swamps, which are dominated by trees, and mires, which are wetlands that have accumulated deposits of acidic peat.

<i>Sphagnum</i> genus of mosses, peat moss

Sphagnum is a genus of approximately 380 accepted species of mosses, commonly known as "peat moss" though they are different as peat moss has a higher acidic pH level. Accumulations of Sphagnum can store water, since both living and dead plants can hold large quantities of water inside their cells; plants may hold 16 to 26 times as much water as their dry weight, depending on the species. The empty cells help retain water in drier conditions.

Burns Bog

Burns Bog is an ombrotrophic peat bog located in Delta, British Columbia, Canada. It is the largest raised peat bog and the largest undeveloped urban land mass on the West Coast of the Americas. Burns Bog was originally 10,000–12,000 acres (4,000–4,900 ha) before development. Currently, only 3,500 hectares remain of the bog.

Fire ecology scientific discipline concerned with natural processes involving fire in an ecosystem and the ecological effects

Fire ecology is a scientific discipline concerned with natural processes involving fire in an ecosystem and the ecological effects, the interactions between fire and the abiotic and biotic components of an ecosystem, and the role as an ecosystem process. Many ecosystems, particularly prairie, savanna, chaparral and coniferous forests, have evolved with fire as an essential contributor to habitat vitality and renewal. Many plant species in fire-affected environments require fire to germinate, establish, or to reproduce. Wildfire suppression not only eliminates these species, but also the animals that depend upon them.

Peat swamp forest Tropical moist forests where waterlogged soil prevents dead leaves and wood from fully decomposing

Peat swamp forests are tropical moist forests where waterlogged soil prevents dead leaves and wood from fully decomposing. Over time, this creates a thick layer of acidic peat. Large areas of these forests are being logged at high rates.

Sir Harry Godwin, FRS was a prominent English botanist and ecologist of the 20th century. He is considered to be an influential peatland scientist, who coined the phrase "peat archives" in 1981. He had a long association with Clare College, Cambridge.

Flow Country Tentative World Heritage site in the United Kingdom

The Flow Country is a large, rolling expanse of peatland and wetland area of Caithness and Sutherland in the North of Scotland. It is the largest expanse of blanket bog in Europe, and covers about 4,000 km2 (1,500 sq mi). It is an area of deep peat, dotted with bog pools and a very important habitat for wildlife, as well as climate change mitigation. As peat is largely made up of the remains of plants, which are themselves made up of carbon, it locks up large stores of carbon for thousands of years. This carbon would otherwise be released to the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. The Flow Country is currently being considered as a potential World Heritage Site on account of its unparalleled blanket bog habitat . It could be part of the Global Peatlands Initiative.

Borneo peat swamp forests

The Borneo peat swamp forests ecoregion, within the tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests biome, are on the island of Borneo, which is divided between Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Blanket bog

Blanket bog or blanket mire, also known as featherbed bog, is an area of peatland, forming where there is a climate of high rainfall and a low level of evapotranspiration, allowing peat to develop not only in wet hollows but over large expanses of undulating ground. The blanketing of the ground with a variable depth of peat gives the habitat type its name. Blanket bogs are found extensively throughout the northern hemisphere - well-studied examples are found in Ireland and Britain, but vast areas of the Russian and North American tundra also qualify as blanket bogs. In Europe, the southernmost edge of range of this habitat has been recently mapped in the Cantabrian Mountains, northern Spain.

Wet meadow type of wetland

A wet meadow is a type of wetland with soils that are saturated for part or all of the growing season. Debate exists whether a wet meadow is a type of marsh or a completely separate type of wetland. Wet prairies and wet savannas are hydrologically similar. Wet meadows may occur because of restricted drainage or the receipt of large amounts of water from rain or melted snow. They may also occur in riparian zones and around the shores of large lakes.

Hudson Bay Lowlands

Hudson Bay Lowlands is a vast wetland located between the Canadian Shield and southern shores of Hudson Bay and James Bay. Most of the area lies within the province of Ontario, with smaller portions reaching into Manitoba and Quebec. Many wide and slow-moving rivers flow through this area toward the salt water of Hudson Bay: these include the Churchill, Nelson and Hayes in Manitoba, Severn, Fawn, Winisk, Asheweig, Ekwan, Attawapiskat, and Albany in Ontario, and the Harricana, Rupert and Eastmain in Quebec. This is the largest wetland in Canada, and one of the largest in the world. The region can be subdivided into three bands running roughly northwest to southeast: the Coastal Hudson Bay Lowland, Hudson Bay Lowland, and James Bay Lowland.

Poor fen Poor fen is a sedge-dominated wetland found on very strongly to strongly acid, saturated peat that is moderately influenced by groundwater. The community occurs north of the climatic tension zone in kettle depressions and in flat areas or mild depres

A poor fen is a natural wetland habitat, supporting a dense carpet of mosses and sedges. It develops where the water is fairly acidic and has very few plant nutrients. Poor fen is intermediate between the taller vegetation of fen, which occurs where the water is much less acidic, and the short, mossy vegetation of bog, which is even more acidic.

Peat energy in Finland

Peat energy in Finland describes peat energy use in Finland. Peat has high global warming emissions and high environmental concerns. It may be compared to brown coal (lignite) or worse than this lowest rank of coal. Peat is the most harmful energy source for global warming in Finland. According to IEA the Finnish subsidies for peat in 2007-2010 undermined the goal to reduce CO
emissions and counteracted other environmental policies and The European Union emissions trading scheme.

Contributing approximately 167 Tg of methane to the atmosphere per year; wetlands are the largest natural source of atmospheric methane in the world, and therefore remain a major area of concern with respect to climate change. Wetlands are characterized by water-logged soils and distinctive communities of plant and animal species that have evolved and adapted to the constant presence of water. This high level of water saturation creates conditions conducive to methane production.

Mire Wetland terrain without forest cover, dominated by living, peat-forming plants

A mire, peatland or quagmire is a wetland type, dominated by living peat-forming plants. Mires arise because of incomplete decomposition of organic matter, usually litter from vegetation, due to water-logging and subsequent anoxia. All types of mires share the common characteristic of being saturated with water at least seasonally with actively forming peat, while having its own set of vegetation and organisms. Like coral reefs, mires are unusual landforms in that they derive mostly from biological rather than physical processes, and can take on characteristic shapes and surface patterning.


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