by Charlotte Mackenzie
Black, golden ore. Slither, sludge, peat.
Rich, fertile soil. Scream.
I must admit that I found it rather hard to connect with my 26 Pledge habitat of peatland, living in the centre of the UK. However, Jess’s odes to Dartmoor and Galen’s insightful pieces on the East Anglia fens, instantly transported me to a landscape of rich, earthy soils, windmills along waterways and rambles along gorse-lined landscapes. It’s no wonder that peaty, boggy, ‘black gold’ is a celebrated part of our landscape here in the UK – it made me think of Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff striding across the moors.
Our peatlands pack an immense punch, storing 3.2 billion tonnes of carbon here in the UK, essential in the fight against climate change. Indeed, Jess’s allusion to them acting as our rainforest struck a chord – we still fail to acknowledge the fact that the climate crisis is affecting to us a lot closer to home than we may wish to acknowledge.
According to The Wildlife Trusts, if just 5% more of our peatlands were to disappear, the amount of carbon lost would equate to the total annual UK man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Not to mention how, if used effectively, peatland could actually benefit rather than hinder farmers. A recent article I came across in the Financial Times explains how by rewetting land for farming willow and reeds which can be burnt sustainably to produce an indoor vertical farm, means that land can be saved and carbon emissions reduced from burning other fuels. Not to mention the timely launch of the first round of Discovery Grants, as part of the Nature for Climate Peatland Grant Scheme, with the aim of restoring peatland systems to a natural and healthy state across the UK. Certainly, this is a step in the right direction and grants will hopefully prove to be incentive enough for landowners currently stuck in a peat-sized quandary.
The effective management and preservation of these unique sites of moorland will need a long-term approach, keeping carbon back in the ground while ensuring that flooding is reduced and unique ecosystems can continue to thrive. Closer to home, we have been doing a huge amount of work on the garden this summer – some of which has required sourcing new topsoil for the flower beds. I pledge to make sure that I will not buy peat, or any plants sown in peat, so as to protect our wetlands.
Protecting our peatland is a problem that rubs deeper than choosing greener fuels or transport measures. We need to take stock of how to manage this precious resource before it truly becomes too late.
Read Jessica Swales’s 26 Habitats peatland centena and essay.
Read Galen O’Hanlon’s 26 Habitats fenland centena and essay.