Posted: Nov 01, 2019
Often overlooked as critical carbon sinks, peatlands store at least twice as much carbon as forests. After years of degredation, Scotland has increased its ambition in restoring these important areas.
The burning Amazon rainforests, with their jaguars, monkeys and colourful birds, have grabbed global attention in a way the destruction of the world's mossy peatlands never has.
Yet protecting the world's peatlands, which store at least twice as much carbon as forests, is critical in the fight against climate change.
Peatlands, also known as bogs, are created when the remains of plants are submerged in waterlogged lands, turning them over time into peat with the plants' carbon still stored inside. They cover around 3% of the world's land and are found in 175 countries, mostly in northern Europe, North America and Southeast Asia.
Scotland has a particularly high coverage, with bogs amounting to 20% of it's of land (roughly 1.7 million hectares) mainly in its lesser-populated north and western islands.
Decades of degradation
However the Scottish governmentestimates that roughly a third of the country's total — roughly 600,000 hectares — have been degraded. Scotland's peatlands, created mostly in areas left water-logged from the melting of Ice Age glaciers, lay untouched for thousands of years until farmers began to drain the land, building ditches so the water would run downhill into rivers.
While such ditches date back to Roman times in parts of Britain, their building intensified in Scotland in the 1950s with the advent of new machinery and government grants aimed at improving grazing.
Peatlands in Scotland cover roughly 20% of its land
Without the bogs' acidic water there to preserve them, the dead plants in the peat start to degrade, releasing their carbon into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. The degradation is sped up by the sun and wind they are exposed to without their water coverage.
By Joe Lo Date
October 31, 2019
Source and complete article: DW.com
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