Why is peat so important?

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Thanks to a recent grant from Biffaward we currently have several exciting projects in progress focussing on the restoration of peat in the Yorkshire Dales. But why is peat so important?

Peat is a major carbon store, with peat bogs in Britain storing the carbon equivalent of 20 years of national industrial emissions, and the UK contains about 15% of the world’s peatlands. A healthy peat bog absorbs and stores carbon, but an unhealthy and drying-out bog releases carbon, adding to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and contributing greatly to climate change. In the UK, peat bogs have been badly damaged by drainage, overgrazing, burning and industrial pollution.

Peat also acts as a giant sponge, soaking up and storing rainwater coming down from the surrounding hills. By soaking the water up, it allows a slow release of water into the surrounding waterways, rather than having fast-flowing water and debris. This helps to reduce the impacts of flooding further down the valley as the force and speed of the water has been reduced. In addition, as the water has slowed, this reduces the amount of erosion caused by the water.