Peatlands and Water Management
Ways in which peatlands need to be managed in conjunction with their respective river basins
Peatlands are the most extensive type of wetlands in the world. They represent 50 – 70% of wetlands on earth i.e. covering more than 4 million km2 (equivalent to 3% of land and freshwater surface) of the planet's surface. These unique ecosystems support a wide range of wildlife habitats with unique biodiversity that are specially adapted to such environments. They exist in varying climate conditions on different continents, from tropical to boreal and Arctic zones from sea level to high alpine conditions. Peatlands are natural systems that function at a local, regional and global level.
These ecosystems are also fundamental due to their vital functions in carbon, hydrological and geochemical cycles. One third of the world's soil carbon and 10% of global freshwater resources reside in peatlands. In fact, their total carbon pool exceeds that of the world's forests and equals to the carbon pool in the atmosphere. Also, peatlands are inextricably linked with social, economic and cultural values important to human communities worldwide.
Since 1800, the total area of peatlands has been significantly reduced (approximated to have decreased by 10 – 20%) due to climate change and human activities – drainage being the main cause for agriculture and forestry. The latter two activities still continue to play major causes affecting change in peatlands, especially in the tropics. Direct impacts on peatlands include drainage, land conversion, excavation, inundation and visitor pressure; indirect impacts are a result of air pollution, water contamination, contraction through water removal, and infrastructure development. Increased human demands place pressure on the use of these unique ecosystems and their natural resources, thus significantly changing the range and importance of the system's diverse functions, services and resources.
Due to growing needs of resources from peatlands, sustainable and wise use of these ecosystems is essential in order to ensure that sufficient areas of peatlands remain to carry out their vital natural resources functions while satisfying the essential requirements of present and future generations.
Global Environment Centre has developed an online information portal on peatlands. More up-to-date information and events are available on this website., visit Peat-Portal
To read more related issues , please visit
Global Peatland Initiative or
International Mire Conservation Group Global Peatland Database or
Irish Peatland Conservation Council (IPCC) or
Peatland Education Programmes