12 brief lessons about peatlands

Peatland Atlas 2023

Peatlands form in places where the ground is constantly wet. They are rich in species and can store carbon to help protect the climate.

  1. Peatlands exist on all continents. They are the result of PEAT FORMATION in soils with soils that are saturated with water.
  2. Worldwide, peatlands cover 3 PERCENT OF THE EARTH’S LAND SURFACE – but they store about twice as much carbon than the biomass of all the world's forests combined.
  3. Peatlands are being lost ten times faster than they are growing. Due to human activities, 500,000 HECTARES OF PEATLAND ARE DESTROYED EVERY YEAR. Intact peatlands urgently need to be protected.
  4. Natural peatlands draw considerable amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere, which they STORE AS CARBON IN THE PEAT. But if they are destroyed, they release large amounts of CO₂ – and damage the climate.
  5. A large part of all drained peatlands worldwide is USED FOR AGRICULTURE. In the EU: one quarter of all peatlands. They are used primarily for animal husbandry.
  6. Peatlands play a crucial role in the WATER CYCLE. They filter and store water and help alleviate drought and flooding. The CLIMATE CRISIS makes peatlands drier and increases the risk of fires that produce a lot of emissions.
  7. Peatlands are home to rare and endangered PLANTS and ANIMAL SPECIES. Their greatest threat worldwide is artificial drainage and deforestation for agriculture and forestry. 
  8. To achieve the goals of the PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT, 1 million hectares in Europe must be rewetted every year – and 2 million hectares worldwide.
  9. Emissions from drained peatlands can be greatly reduced without giving up farming: by raising water levels and converting to PALUDICULTURE such as growing reeds and raising water buffaloes.
  10. For centuries, peat was used mainly as a FUEL. Today it is mainly used as POTTING SOIL in horticulture. Ecological alternatives must be promoted more strongly.
  11. Over the centuries, peatlands have been destroyed. We need to recognize the VALUE OF WET PEATLANDS for biodiversity and the climate.
  12. In many parts of the world, there are FOREST-COVERED PEATLANDS: alder swamps in Europe – or tropical rainforests. They store a particularly large amount of carbon and must be preserved or restored at all costs.