Bog Standard? – Valuing Peatlands

Sunday is the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) International Bog Day and over the last few months we have published a series of blogs around peatland restoration to celebrate the wonderful and varied world of peatlands.

The Bog Day website provides a great range of resources and links to events to actively encourage people to value bogs more. But what is a bog and why should we value them? 

Bogs

Bog Day specifies that

Bogs have many names – peatland, mosses, mires, fens – they are all formed on peat, which is created when plants die in waterlogged conditions and so don’t rot down.’

…and details how widespread they are

Bogs are found in 180 countries worldwide and span across all continents, from naturally forested peatlands in Europe and tropical peat swamp forests in South East Asia, to vast permafrost areas of Russia and Canada, and high mountain peatlands of the Andes and Himalayas.

The UK is one of the world’s top ten countries in terms of peatland area, covering 2 million hectares. 60% of the UK’s bog is in Scotland.

Valuing bogs

Bogs can be easily dismissed by some peopleThorne Moors is England’s largest terrestrial Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI) and we have helped restore it over the last 10 years, however the name on Ordnance Survey maps is Thorne Waste. Calling it a waste hints at how the bog has been traditionally seen; a waterlogged expanse, unsuitable for farming and providing little or no benefits to humans. This is far from the truth….

The RSPB’s Realising the Benefits of Peatlands report outlines seven reasons why peatlands are important:

  1. An internationally important wildlife habitat
  2. A huge store of carbon
  3. A significant carbon sink
  4. A regulator of water flow and water quality
  5. A place for sport and recreation
  6. A place of employment
  7. Culturally significant and a valuable archive of our past.

We recognise that peatland restoration can bring multiple benefits and services, and in many of our interdisciplinary peatland projects demand such an approach.

This is illustrated in our recent work in the Forest of Bowland which focused on Natural Flood Management and habitat creation opportunitiesIdentifying the range of ecosystem services that peatland restoration can bring can unlock a range of funding streams and build wider stakeholder partnerships.

Bogs as a natural capital asset

Our work is moving into valuing bogs as Natural Capital Assets. Natural capital can be defined as the elements of nature that directly or indirectly provide value to people. This definition comes from the governments recently published 25-year Environment Plan, which has a strong focus on incorporating natural capital into decision making.

Examples of things that can be classed as natural capital are:

  • Species
  • Air
  • Water
  • Land
  • Soils
  • Minerals.

These can be grouped together as natural assets, which are elements of nature that provide us with goods and services.

Viewing bogs as natural capital assets allows us to recognise their whole value, and some of our recent projects have allowed us to explore the elements that contribute to this. English peatbogs are the largest carbon store in the country, holding approximately 300 million tonnes of carbon. If maintained and preserved, upland soils can continue to sequester carbon from the atmosphere and combat rising greenhouse gas emissions. This can be done through rewetting, vegetation restoration and careful land-management. Natural England estimate the net economic benefit of green house gas emissions from peatland restoration could be up to £78,000 per hectare.

So, what can we deduce from the above? Bogs and bog restoration provide a range of complex benefitwhich means that no Bog is Bog Standard!

Want to know more?

Email Alex Jones for more information on our work on bogs and peatlands. You can also find out more on our environmental services web pages.



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