This photo essay is part of a series on the planet’s major ecosystems, a topic that will be discussed at the Global Landscapes Forum New York on 28 September.
Peatlands are a type of wetland with a naturally-accumulated layer of peat – organic matter that has not fully decomposed – on the surface. They are found in at least 169 countries and on all continents, ranging from the Arctic to the tropics.
Peatlands cover only about 3 percent of the world’s land area, but they store almost one-third of soil carbon, making them the largest soil carbon store. Globally, peatlands store twice as much carbon as all of the world’s forests.
Peatlands preserve global biodiversity, provide clean water, and minimize flood risk. They also fight climate change by storing immense amounts of carbon from their steady accumulation of organic matter over millennia.
The average peatland has a carbon pool five times greater than that of a tropical forest. As a result, peatlands that are drained and degraded can release large amounts of carbon and thus exacerbate climate change. In fact, degraded peatlands contribute around 5 percent of global anthropogenic carbon emissions – making it all the more important to protect and restore them.
Read the rest of our ‘fast facts’ series on ecosystems below.