Peat Land: “Current Use and Future Concerns”

Peatland management for various purposes has significant impacts on local environment, economy and social values. The following elements deserve thorough consideration among the most prominent impacts of current peatland management:

General remarks:

Peatlands and related environmental and social values are specific at national, regional and local levels and any actions to use either by protecting or managing these values should be adapted to the specific socio-economic, cultural and ecological conditions.

Knowledge on peatlands, their ecological functions and dynamics needs continuous improvement, updating and dissemination.

There are international and national processes and instruments to protect peatlands and peat resources, their implementation in all peatland management should be encouraged.

Environmental aspects:

* Continuous loss of peat, especially on drained peatland result in destruction of peatland ecosystems, peat resources and increase greenhouse gas emissions to atmosphere. Especially in the tropics, the oxidation of peat resources is massive due to ecological conditions and frequent fires but oxidation is a problem on drained peatland also in boreal and temperate vegetation zones.

* Knowledge on peatlands’ impact on climate change and on the impacts of climate change on peatland dynamics is insufficient for informed decision-making at policy and practical levels on good management practices. Additional efforts are also needed to distribute the existing knowledge to politicians, authorities and practical level operators.

* Current peatland management, both controlled and uncontrolled, results in loss of habitats, species, and genetic diversity. Peatland fires, especially in the tropics, destroy ecosystems and produce emissions with global significance.

* Controlled after use of managed peatlands (restoration and rehabilitation of drained peatlands) is lagging behind. If after use is not well implemented, taking into consideration ecological, social impacts and greenhouse gas dynamics, peat resources will deplete.

* Peatlands maintain various ecosystem functions including water tables, water circulation and purification processes. Disturbances in water circulation and soil structures can have adverse impacts with significant ecological, social and economic consequences.

* There are legal, administrative and technical instruments to protect mires and peatlands through conservation, wise use and restoration, their implementation should be encouraged.

Social aspects:

* Depletion of peat resource reduces job opportunities and income (livelihood). Poverty or relative underdevelopment also creates pressure to exploit biologically valuable or devastated peatlands.

* Peat provides often work opportunities and potential socio-economic benefits in remote and rural areas but when peatland management (e.g. peat extraction) competes with other uses of peatlands, e.g. agriculture (bioenergy production) and nature protection there is a possibility for social conflicts. Conflicts of interest can increase uncontrolled land management.

* Growing population increases social pressure to limited peat resources for their use and also for their protection.

* Benefits emerging from peatland management, if allocated only to few/selective people give rise to local social unrest.

* Peatland restoration and rehabilitation enhance social values.

* It is a challenge to define procedures that engage interest groups and local people in peatland management planning.

Economic aspects:

* Peat is material with great potential – currently it serves as essential raw material in several industries (horticulture and energy among the largest ones).

* Peat energy is a strategic resource for many countries – which have implications on policies and incentives for it’s use.

* Financial incentives e.g. on energy production have implications on the profitability of peatland management for different purposes. Incentives may result in intensification of management on marginal or environmentally valuable peatlands or adoption of production chains that are not efficient e.g. in the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.

* After extraction peatlands can be used for economically profitable production – agriculture, forestry.

* Increasing demand for peat and peatland development at a global level will increase criticism towards the industry.

* Continuously tightening and detailed restrictive regulations bring unforeseen costs and make long term business planning difficult.

* Industry needs to argument in depth the chosen management regimes in order to gain a license to operate from interest groups.

taken from: ” Development of a Strategy for Peatland Management” by IPS – International Peat Society

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