World’s ‘vital’ peatlands could shift from being key carbon sink to major source of greenhouse gas

Wildfires, agriculture, horticulture and impacts of the climate crisis could result in the breakdown of one of our planet’s biggest stores of carbon, writes Harry Cockburn

Peat cutting in Scotland. Dried peat burns well and it is also widely used in horticulture
Peat cutting in Scotland. Dried peat burns well and it is also widely used in horticulture

Peat is an enchanting substance. Earthy, mossy, and almost oily, it is a rich accumulation of living, dying and dead plant matter, and is the most efficient carbon sink on the planet.

Known as the “forgotten fossil fuel”, peat takes thousands of years to form in substantial quantities, and though peat bogs cover just 3 per cent of the surface of the earth, they store more carbon than all the world’s forests combined, holding one-third of the Earth’s soil carbon.

For this reason, researchers have warned the preservation of peat is “vital” in the battle against the worsening climate crisis and global environmental breakdown.

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