We know that peat isn't necessary in horticulture or in our gardens. It has no place in bagged potting composts, nor in the plants that we buy at garden centres. But recent research from the RSPB has shown the true environmental cost of extracting peat. And it's shocking.
- Nearly 80% of the UK’s peatlands have been destroyed or degraded.
- As they degrade, the stored carbon is released. This means they currently emit more greenhouse gases than all the HGVs on UK roads.
- These emissions also cancel any benefits of the new climate emergency forestry planting.
So what actions should we take?
The report recommends the following:
- Stop extracting peat for horticulture. We need government to ban commercial peat extraction, and provide financial support to get sites restored.
- Stop draining peatlands for agriculture. Dried peatland destroys the wet conditions needed by moisture-loving peatland wildlife and releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It also promotes further erosion of the peat.
- Stop burning peat for game. Again, it dries and destroys peatlands. Plus the burnt, degraded blanket bog is less able to slow the flow of water across the bog surface, coupled with erosion, this can lead to heavier floods after torrential rainfall.
- Stop planting trees on peatlands. Afforested bogs release nearly 1000 times as many greenhouse gases as near-natural bogs. The carbon stored (sequestered) in the timber crop does not counteract these losses
The RSPB is pushing for a peatland restoration programme.
This would also involve the rewetting of bogs to prevent further carbon loss.
Another solution would be to grow sphagnum moss as a commercial crop, for use in the horticultural trade.
To read the full report, see here