Peatlands represent significant carbon stores, vulnerable habitats, and archives of paleoenvironmental information. Potentially, they act as the most efficient ‘tool’ in mitigating anthropogenic climate change, containing approximately 455Gt of carbon; twice the amount found in the world’s forests (Dunn and Freeman, 2011). Resource exploitation, conversion for agriculture, and response to rising temperatures has led to widespread degradation over the last century. Back in 2000, Bousquet et al. predicted a 2°C increase in global average temperature (as based off the IPCC prediction) would result in the northern wetland carbon sink to switch to a carbon source. This prediction is sadly coming to fruition (Bonn et al., 2014; IUCN, 2018; Petrokofsky et al., 2012; Van Der Werf et al., 2009).
The potential of peatlands acting as a Green House Gas (GHG) source was first discussed back in the IPCCs 1990 Climate Change Assessment by Moore et al. (1990). We are aware of the devastating impact degraded peatlands are/could keep having on the global GHG budget. Yet, little action has been undertaken. We do not have any time left. We need to act now to: (1) safeguard any existing ‘natural’ peat bogs; (2) understand their exact injection of GHGs into the regional, national, and global budget; (3) investigate peat down to the microscale, to understand their structure and functioning behaviour which can lead us to implement the most efficient restoration strategies.
Together, we will protect, restore, and enhance our UK peatlands.