It’s obvious that peat bogs are essential for wildlife. They’re home to plants that can’t grow anywhere else, rare birds, and unique communities of invertebrates like spiders and beetles.
But bogs provide vital services for people too. They store more carbon than any other land-based ecosystem, making them a vital defence against the effects of climate change. They also play a major role in providing high quality, unpolluted water.
Bogs hold vast quantities of water and the rivers that flow from healthy peat bogs are remarkably clean. They’re ideal sources of drinking water, as well as being good for fish like salmon that are highly sensitive to pollution. The rivers that drain from the Flow Country offer some of the best salmon fishing in Scotland, creating a valuable resource for the local economy. Bogs affect the marine environment too: there’s evidence that rivers flowing from peat bogs improve the quality of coastal waters close to where they meet the sea.
These sorts of benefits are called ecosystem services. The services different ecosystems provide are increasingly recognised as major contributions to the economy, and they extend beyond protecting the environment and creating valuable economic resources.
Thousands of people come to the Flow Country every year not because of its role as a defence against climate change or because it maintains good water quality, but because it offers a rare experience of wilderness, solitude and inspiration. In the words of a Scottish Government briefing paper, peatlands give us ecosystem services that “contribute to making human life both possible and worth living.”
They store more carbon than any other land-based ecosystem, making them a vital defence against the effects of climate change.
Source: Bain, C.G., Bonn, A., Stoneman, R., Chapman, S., Coupar, A., Evans, M., Gearey, B., Howat, M., Joosten, H., Keenleyside, C., Labadz, J., Lindsay, R., Littlewood, N., Lunt, P., Miller, C.J., Moxey, A., Orr, H., Reed, M., Smith, P., Swales, V., Thompson, D.B.A., Thompson, P.S., Van de Noort, R., Wilson, J.D. & Worrall, F. (2011) IUCN UK Commission of Inquiry on Peatlands. IUCN UK Peatland Programme.
Ecosystem services provided by peatlands
Source: SNH. (2015). Scotlands National Peatland Plan.