Gardeners' demand for peat accused of threatening Estonia's eco-system

A A A

British gardeners' love of peat is threatening to destroy the fragile ecology of Estonia, where millions of tons of deposits are being cut for export, ecologists warned yesterday.

British gardeners' love of peat is threatening to destroy the fragile ecology of Estonia, where millions of tons of deposits are being cut for export, ecologists warned yesterday.

Environmentalists have succeeded in banning peat cutting in much of the UK but, with no let-up in demand, the problem is simply being exported to the Baltic republics. Commercial peat extraction destroys wildlife habitats and contributes to global warming, according to experts speaking at a regional conference organised by an ecological non- government organisation called Religion, Science and the Environment. The peat bogs of Ireland have been devastated by mechanical extraction and British firms have been accused of plundering the habitats of smaller countries for profit.

Estonia, about the size of Wales, is digging up close to three million tons of peat a year, according to green groups, at a rate six times faster than nature can replenish. That output is expected to soar as foreign investors turn to the Baltic.

Less than 5 per cent of the former Soviet republic's peat bogs had so far been exploited but those vital habitats could be pillaged in as little as 15 years, Aivar Ouepa, a green campaigner, said. The disappearance of those carbon-loaded wetlands could be devastating to the dwindling populations of endangered species such as brown bears and golden eagles.

Matti Ilomits, professor of ecology at Tallinn University, urged the British to switch to non peat-based products. "It's important to explain there are many sustainable ways to keep your garden," he said.

The tiny republic has a unique eco-system of primeval forests and wetlands that are home to a number of species no longer found elsewhere in Europe. The 500 remaining bears rely on cranberries that flourish in the peat bogs. "The cranberry is a vitamin bomb," Mr Ouepa explained. "The bears need them to restart their digestive system as they emerge from hibernation."

Teddy Goldsmith, acknowledged as one of the founders of environmentalism in the UK, criticised British gardeners for abandoning traditional composting methods in favour of peaty soil conditioning. He said: "It's crazy to be digging this stuff up and shipping it thousands of miles to the UK and burning all that fuel to get there, when people could be using their own kitchen and garden waste to make compost instead."

Extraction also releases huge deposits of carbon dioxide that would otherwise remain safely absorbed in the soil.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
News
i100
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club that later became synonymous with Hillsborough has dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor