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The England Peat Action Plan (2021)

"Our peatlands are an iconic feature of England’s landscape. Often referred to as ‘our national rainforest’, they perform many functions – they are our largest terrestrial carbon store, a haven for rare wildlife, a record of our past, and natural providers of water regulation. Yet, for too long we have taken this valuable natural resource for granted. Only 13% of England’s peatlands are in a near natural state."

"Much of our lowland peat is currently used for intensive agriculture, which can be highly profitable. It covers less than 4% of England’s farmed area but produces more than 7% of England’s total agricultural production and is worth £1.23 billion to the UK economy. In the case of some peatlands, full restoration may not be practical or in the public interest , but at the very least, these sites must be better managed if we are to halt further degradation." Link to the England Peat Action Plan for details on the planned actions

Part of the new national natural capital and ecosystem assessment programme includes data collection. In order for the England Peat Action Plan to achieve its goals to protect our best peatlands, restore damaged peat and reduce further loss and degradation of peat soils, up to date information and mapping of peat needs to be carried out. This will be done through the England Peat Map project which started in April 2021 and with a planned release of the maps in 2024.

The Peat Data Hub (launched May 2021)

A research hub for communicating peatland science and managing peatland monitoring data.
The aims of PeatDataHub are:

  • Bring together data and create a community of people working on peatland sites around the world ensuring the long-term scientific resilience of peatland study sites
  • Efficiently capture the data from both short and long-term peatland studies
  • Answer key research and management questions related to peatland processes and environmental change, and to build upon existing data to identify research gaps, new projects, and improved methods.
  • Engage with both governmental and non-governmental bodies to influence management practice and policy and to secure funding for peatland monitoring and research.

'Peatlands are among the most valuable ecosystems on Earth and a stark example of how important our natural environment is to our wellbeing. Occupying just 3% of the Earth’s land surface, peatlands are our largest carbon store on land. They are places where people derive clean water and food, and can act as buffers for environmental disasters, such as flooding. They are also of global significance for biodiversity with the majority of peatland species and habitats rare, threatened or declining.    Extract from the IUCN Peatland Strategy Foreword

Peat soils in 1987 covered 24,000ha of Fenland, but are still being eroded through drainage and cultivation at a rate of 2.0cm a year and releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. Only 10,500ha are estimated to have peat deeper than one metre and roughly a  quarter of this is located in nature reserves or under grass in flood relief washlands. Extract from the Fens for the Future Partnership Final Report

Land Management and Agricultural practices are changing; Adopting low tillage husbandry methods, using cover crops in between regular crop production and planting tree belts to reduce erosion. Projects are being undertaken to look at 'wet farming', growing crops which prefer a higher water level, that could be grown commercially to aid the balance between maintaining and restoring the peatlands and continuing to use land for food production. Projects include Waterworks, Great Fen, Cambridgeshire and CANAPE, Norfolk.