Boggy facts and figures

Peatlands around the world

Peatlands are found in 180 countries worldwide across all continents

Blanket bogs and lowland raised bogs are globally threatened

Peatlands cover just 3% of the world’s surface but hold nearly 30% of the soil carbon

British bogs

  • There are three main types of peatlands in the UK: blanket bog, raised bog and fenland.
  • The UK has 13% of all the world’s blanket bog
  • 60% of the UK’s peatland is in Scotland
  • Peatlands are home to rare wading birds such as dunlin, the threatened hen harrier, weird and wonderful plants like the insect-eating sundew and throngs of insects including dragonflies, large heath butterflies, emperor moths and dazzling jewel beetles

The benefits of bogs

  • Peatland vegetation slows the flow of rainfall, helping to prevent flooding in local towns and villages
  • Global peatlands contain at least 550 Gigatonnes of carbon, more than twice the carbon stored in all forests
  • UK’s Peatlands store over three billion tonnes of carbon, around the same amount as all the forest in the UK, France and Germany put together
  • Peat is the single biggest store of carbon in the UK, storing the equivalent of 20 years of all UK CO2 emissions and keeping it out of the atmosphere.
  • Inland water bodies including peatlands provide £1.5 billion value in terms of water quality
  • 70% of UK drinking water comes from upland areas dominated by peatlands
  • Peatlands are home to rare wading birds such as dunlin, the threatened hen harrier, weird and wonderful plants like the insect-eating sundew and throngs of insects including dragonflies, large heath butterflies, emperor moths and dazzling jewel beetles
Blanket bog

Peatlands are also known as moors, bogs, mires, peat swamp forests, permafrost tundra, peat moss, muskegs and fens

Marvellous mosses

  • Sphagnum moss is a key component of blanket bogs
  • Sphagnum can hold up to 20 times its weight in water
  • Each kind of sphagnum moss has its own shade of colour, ranging from red, pink and orange through to green
  • Some grow underwater in pools and wet hollows whilst  others can survive in fairly dry conditions
  • Hummocks are created by sphagnum mosses growing to form large mounds up to a metre high
  • Some mosses grow only a few millimetres a year, while others grow over 3cm
  • Mosses grow from spores which are produced in fruiting bodies called capsules
  • Sphagnum mosses produce chemicals which increase the acidity of the water and further prevent the decay of dead plants
  • Dry sphagnum moss is absorbent and also mildly antiseptic.
  • During the First and Second World Wars it was used as wound dressings. It was also used for lamp wicks, bedding and babies’ nappies
  • Sphagnum moss is now used by gardeners for a variety of purposes
Sphagnum mound with heather

Peatland Formation

Dead remains of the sphagnum mosses pile up and get pressed together to eventually form the soil we know as peat. Peat forms at a very slow rate – 1mm per year or 1 metre per millennium.

Damaged peatlands

  • Damage to peatlands is caused by drainage, atmospheric pollution, peat extraction and burning
  • Globally, 25% of peatlands have been destroyed
  • In the UK at least 80% are damaged
  • 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere each year from damaged UK peatlands
  • Damage to peatlands results in brown water which is expensive for water companies to treat ready for us to drink
  • Damaged peatlands result in declining wildlife as habitat disappears
  • Damaged peatlands contribute to worsening climate change
  • It takes thousands of years to make a bog and once they are destroyed it is a long process to get them back.

Peak District and South Pennines

  • There are high levels of heavy metals in peat in the Peak District and South Pennines because they were present in smoke from factories during the industrial revolution
  • Heavy metals found in the peat soil include copper, zinc, cadmium and lead
  • These metals are so abundant that metal eating bacteria normally found on scrapheaps have been found in the peat
  • Levels of zinc and copper in waterways coming off the moors are beyond EU thresholds
  • Water companies in the area have to dispose of sediment in their reservoirs as toxic waste when dredged because of the abundance of heavy metals
  • Acid rain has turned peat, in some cases, to the same pH as lemon juice. This has decimated sphagnum moss populations and made the environment inhospitable for plants to grow
  • Worst eroding square kilometres of moorland are losing 800 tonnes carbon per year
  • These areas could be sequestering (taking in and storing) up to 500 tonnes carbon per year
Brash Spreading

Moors for the Future Partnership is made up of organisations including the Peak District National Park Authority, National Trust, RSPB, Natural England, Environment Agency, Pennine Prospects and three water companies: United Utilities, Yorkshire Water and Severn Trent Water

Moors for the Future Partnership

  • We have developed techniques for stabilising  peat which have resulted in the successful re-vegetation of bare peat
  • In the first 15 years we have transformed over 32 sq km of bare peat
  • We work on over 30 projects
  • In 2018 we:
    • Installed 2,757 dams over 13 km of grips and gullies
    • Planted 7.76 km2 with sphagnum plugs
    • Took 5,940 dipwell measurements
    • Surveyed 798 m2 of moorland plants
    • Trained 360 Community Science Project wildlife surveyors
    • Attended or hosted 136 events, reaching 4,265 people
    • Spread 6,462 bags of heather brash over 0.31 km2 of peat

Sphagnum planting