Restoring peatlands could lead to vast economic benefits

Restoring the world’s peatlands now rather than later would have massive economic benefits, according to researchers at the University of Leeds. 

Peatlands make up around 3% of the Earth’s surface and they store a third of the world’s soil carbon. However, historically peatlands have been used for fuel, and have been affected by burning, drainage and forest plantation.

This has resulted in Peatlands being degraded to levels that mean they could release more carbon than they currently store.

Focusing on Scotland, where 20% of the land surface is peatland, the researchers concluded that restoration would provide £191m of societal benefits annually if the action took place by 2027 instead of 2039-3050. 

Restoring now (before 2027) rather than later (2039–2050) would gain an estimated average of £77.76 per household per year in Scotland.

landscape photography of mountains during foggy weather

Professor Julia Martin-Ortega, co-author of the study said: ‘We should be restoring peatlands now, rather than postponing it. As the climate crisis gathers pace, policymakers are deciding on when and how to invest in ecosystem restoration.

‘Peatland restoration should be a priority. The more we delay it, the more we lose, not just in terms of the benefits to the environment, but in monetary terms to society as a whole.’

Lead author Dr Klaus Glenk, added, said: ‘Delaying restoration action may not only result in further ecosystem degradation but also negatively impact on ecosystem resilience.

‘Peatlands with a healthy cover of peat moss are expected to be less susceptible to future climate change. This also implies that substantial additional greenhouse gas emissions that accelerate global warming in the long term might be avoided by restoring peatlands earlier rather than later.

‘Our study indicates that the enhanced robustness of peatlands against future climate change is an important factor for greater benefits of early, rather than delayed, restoration action.’

Pippa Neill


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