Peatland is Giant CO2 Sponge

A peatland restoration project in northern England, near Manchester, will help soak up carbon and boost biodiversity. Protecting intact peatlands and restoring degraded ones are crucial steps if the world is to succeed in its efforts to hold back climate change. It's been described as the 'low hanging fruit'.

Since early this year, conservationists have created 3,500 scallop-shaped bunds - or dams - into peatland at Holcombe Moor in the West Pennines. The banks were created to trap water and rewet the peat, which has dried out as a result of pollution, overgrazing and moorland fires.

Amazingly, ecologists estimate that while peatlands cover only 3 percent of the Earth’s land surface, they hold 30 percent of the carbon stored on land. However, peat bogs become a problem when they dry out because they release the stored CO2. Restoring them, therefore, is vital in the race to stabilise our climate.

Healthy peat bogs have another benefit: they also soak up floodwater. “If you imagine a giant sponge which is covered in thousands of small holes and can hold large quantities of water - that’s what we’re aiming for here,” said Maddi Naish, rural surveyor at the National Trust, which led the project.

“The peat bunds stop rainwater rushing across and off the plateau and instead trap it on the moor, allowing special plants to thrive which help the peat to absorb carbon from the air.”

Healthy peatlands are also hotbeds of biodiversity, attracting plants, insects and rare wading birds.

Further north, in Scotland, a vast expanse of almost uninterrupted blanket bog stretches over about 4,000 sq km of Caithness and Sutherland. Hopes are rising that this vast area, known as Flow Country - and the world’s largest carbon store - could become the first peatland to win World Heritage status.