We need to act now! Save our peat
Peat is a non-renewable resource. We must act before we lose this valuable ecosystem forever
What is peat?
To put it simply, peat is a type of soil. Soil is a mixture of clay, rock particles, sand and organic matter, such as dead plants.
In most soil, the organic matter decays and breaks down to become smaller and finer. Peat, however, forms in wet, acidic environments that are low in oxygen because organic matter cannot properly decompose under such anaerobic conditions. The bugs and bacteria that would usually aid the decomposition process cannot survive in such a low-oxygen environment. As plants die and partially decay to form peat, they create a substrate from which other plants can grow and so the cycle continues. Very slowly, these layers of peat build up and absorb more and more water to form a bog.
Peat is a common ingredient in compost, despite the fact that harvesting it is harmful to the environment. Peat bogs are mechanically torn apart and the peat is wrapped in heavy-duty plastic and shipped across the country for people to use in their gardens.
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Why does peat matter?
Peat bogs are the most efficient terrestrial carbon sink on our planet. They cover just 3% of our land yet store twice as much carbon as all our forests combined (United Nations Environment Programme). As peat is formed underwater, the carbon contained in the organic matter cannot be released into the atmosphere.
Damage to bogs through peat extraction immediately releases harmful carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These incredible habitats have absorbed and stored greenhouse gases for thousands of years, yet peat extraction methods instantly undo all of this amazing work.
Peat is a non-renewable resource. Fewer than half of peat bogs regenerate, and the ones that do grow only by around 1mm per year, which is less than 0.5% of the rate at which peat is harvested.
Commercial extractors rip the peat from the bog, destroying delicate ecosystems which provide sanctuary for wildlife, including over 5000 different species of insect. It is vital to protect what’s left of these unique habitats as only 0.06% of invertebrates receive any conservation funding in the EU. Only 6% of lowland raised bogs remain in the UK, a reduction from c95,000ha to only c6,000ha at the present day (UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Habitat Descriptions).
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Far-reaching environmental impact
Peatlands regulate the water cycle by soaking up and retaining water. This action reduces the frequency and severity of flooding and protects the surrounding towns, villages and ecosystems. When peatlands do release water, the peat itself has acted as a natural filtration system, ensuring that less processing is required before it is suitable for use as drinking water.
The draining of peatland for peat extraction releases massive volumes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, resulting in a significant increase in global warming.
How we can help
At Pretoria Bio, we take our responsibility to protect the planet seriously. We’re conscious of the immeasurable damage that peat harvesting is causing to our ecosystems. As an industry, we need to create more sustainable processes, and ultimately products, that widen the consumer choice in the market. By enabling these options, we can all be a part in saving this precious natural resource and creating a sustainable future.
What are we doing about it?
We were shocked to discover not only how difficult it can be for consumers to find peat-free growing media, but also how expensive it can be when you find it! Unfortunately, this destructive and harmful approach is all too popular, but Pretoria Bio is dedicated to providing alternatives for the environmentally-conscious gardener.
We reduce transport emissions and costs by pelletising and packing our growing medium on site at our anaerobic digestion plant. On-site packing removes transit miles and pelletising significantly decreases the amount of moisture in our product. This not only brings down transport emissions by lessening the weight of the product but also gives you more for your money as we aren’t selling you water.
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Want to know more?
Follow the links below for further reading material on the issues faced, the environmental impact of peat extraction and the associations who share our belief that immediate action is required.
Irish Peatland Conservation Council
IPCC mission is to protect a representative sample of the peatlands of Ireland for people to enjoy today and in the future.
IUCN UK Peatland Programme
The IUCN UK Peatland Programme exists to promote peatland restoration in the UK and advocates the multiple benefits of peatlands through partnerships, strong science, sound policy and effective practice.
The Wildlife Trust
Wildlife Trust is an independent charity that believes we need nature and it needs us. More than 850,000 members and 35,000 volunteers work together with their Wildlife Trust to make their local area wilder and make nature part of life, for everyone.