The Earth's peatlands are an important part of the carbon cycle. They lock-up vast amounts of carbon for near-geological timescales - globally between 329 and 528 billion tonnes of the stuff. This is the equivalent of between 1,200 and 1,900 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, that infamous greenhouse gas.
Remarkably, peatlands cover only 3% of the Earth's land surface, but may store 16-24% of all soil-borne carbon. As well as absorbing carbon dioxide and storing it as carbon, bogs release relatively small amounts of another gas implicated in global warming, methane. However, when a bog is drained for agricultural use, forestry or peat extraction the adverse effect of decreased carbon absorption far outweighs the gain in terms of reduced methane release.
It is further suggested that global warming could weaken our rain-bearing weather systems and increase the incidence of drought. Drier and more aerobic, or oxygen-fed peatland ecosystems could support the growth of enzymes that would directly release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere in a kind of runaway acceleration of the carbon cycle.
Wetlands, including peat bogs, are therefore very good for the health of the planet. The argument for their preservation is very powerful. It's why tax-advantageous forestry projects in the Sutherland Flow Country soon became politically incorrect, and why coconut fibre is so much better for your pot plants than peat-based compounds.
Courtesy of Geoff Holman