Government calls for peat phase out welcome

Saturday 18th December 2010

But more ambitious targets needed, The Wildlife Trusts urges

The Wildlife Trusts has welcomed the launch of a Government consultation which looks to phase out the use of peat in all horticultural sectors, but warned that even greater urgency is needed if we are to restore and manage our peatlands effectively.

Natural Environment Minister Richard Benyon called for the elimination of peat from the amateur gardeners market by 2020, and its use by all gardeners, growers and procurers by 2030 at the latest. Peat extraction devastates habitat for many rare and specialised species, and releases huge amounts of harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Whilst a phase out of its use is great news, peatlands are degrading and disappearing at an alarming rate. Lancashire Wildlife Trust is currently opposing applications to give more time to extract peat from Chat Moss in Wigan and Salford. 99 percent of the mosslands in the northwest of England have been lost in the last 100 years and now only small fragments remain.

Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “The Wildlife Trusts believe that extracting peat is an unsustainable practice, both because of its effects on wildlife and in terms of climate change. We are working hard to protect the UK’s peatlands, for example, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust plays a key role in the Yorkshire Peat Partnership*, which aims to substantially increase the amount of peatland restoration activity in the Yorkshire uplands, and Lancashire Wildlife Trust continues to campaign to save Chat Moss from further extraction.

“Peat bogs provide a habitat for many species, such as the peatland specialist, sundew, and peat soils store a huge amount of carbon. They are one of our best assets in fighting climate change. On the flip side, drained and over-exploited peat soils give off huge amounts of carbon. In addition to their role in climate change, peatlands provide other benefits such as grazing land, grouse moors and clean water. Restoration may even protect property from flooding by storing more water on the hills during storms.

“The phasing out of peat for horticultural use in compost has begun but new ways of accelerating this process need to be considered on a much more ambitious timescale. Otherwise, in the next 10 or more years, our peatlands will continue to experience unsustainable extraction and we will also be missing opportunities to manage and restore peatlands, with all of the subsequent benefits this can bring.”

Story by RSWT