Peatlands provide vital ecosystem services to the whole planet.
Despite covering less than three percent of the global land surface, peatlands are significant global carbon stores. Remarkably, they provide more carbon storage than the entire forest biomass, which covers ten times the area.
Unfortunately, drainage and extraction of peat degrades the condition of these areas and reverses the flow of ecosystem services.
For example, degradation switches peatlands from being carbon stores and sinks to carbon sources. Estimates indicate that degraded peatlands will contribute eight percent of the global environmental CO2 emissions by 2050. In addition, degradation results in reduced water quality, changes in regulation of water flow, and loss of biodiversity.
Peatland restoration, and wetland restoration in general, is viewed as a cost-effective nature-based solution, assisting in the conservation of wetland habitats, while also serving to reduce negative trends in ecosystem services.
In Ireland, over 20 percent of land is peatlands, making it one of the most unique environments – and potential carbon capture sites – in the world.
Working in conjunction with scientists, economists and academics in the EU, we have applied natural capital accounting to develop a risk register for peatlands in Ireland. This work also informs restoration targets, highlighting the potential to reduce and reverse negative trends.
A paper on this work has been published in Restoration Ecology – the Journal of the Society of Ecological Restoration.