Make an ef­fort to halt de­cline of peat bogs

Stockport Express - - The Laughing Badger - SEAN WOOD The Laugh­ing Bad­ger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glos­sop sean.wood

AS the na­tion’s gar­den­ers pre­pare to shut down, clear up and get pre­pared for win­ter, can I make a plea that every­one opts to stop us­ing peat? It is not a sus­tain­able re­source, it is fi­nite, and we have nearly run out.

It’s a tough call, be­cause a new sur­vey re­veals a lack of real choice for con­sumers look­ing for peat-free com­posts at gar­den cen­tres and other out­lets.

It high­lights the need for more de­ter­mined ac­tion to phase out peat use from the gar­den­ing in­dus­try and to pro­tect wild peat­lands.

This year nearly 300 vol­un­teers re­sponded to a sur­vey by Friends of the Earth, Plantlife, RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts and the ev­i­dence was damming. They found that:

Only 19 per cent of al­most 1,300 prod­ucts on sale were clearly la­belled as peat-free;

A third of re­spon­dents did not find peat-free com­post clearly avail­able;

Half of re­spon­dents who checked prices found peat-free com­post to be more ex­pen­sive than peat-based op­tions;

There was of­ten lit­tle aware­ness or con­cern about the im­pact of peat among re­tail staff;

Most re­spon­dents re­ported a lack of prod­uct choice, price in­cen­tive or clear la­belling to en­cour­age con­sumers to buy peat-free.

The sur­vey re­sults show how dif­fi­cult it still is for am­a­teur gar­den­ers to buy peat-free. This is de­spite the high pro­file of the peat-free gar­den­ing is­sue in the 1990s and early 2000s, the avail­abil­ity of qual­ity peat-free al­ter­na­tives and re­peated com­mit­ments by the gar­den in­dus­try and UK govern­ment to phase out peat use.

En­vi­ron­men­tal groups are call­ing on in­dus­try and gov­ern­ments to take de­ter­mined ac­tion – and ur­gently – to pro­tect re­main­ing peat­lands from the dev­as­tat­ing im­pacts of this trade.

In­dus­try fig­ures show that:

Bagged peat-free com­post in­creased from 5.9 per cent of the mar­ket in 2011 to nine per cent in 2015.

Peat still ac­counts for more than half of the to­tal ma­te­rial used in bagged com­posts.

The amount of peat in the re­tail mar­ket in­creased by 50,000m3 from 2012 to 2015.

Across the UK gar­den in­dus­try, more than two mil­lion m3 of peat was used in 2015.

While com­mer­cial peat ex­trac­tion from Bri­tain’s bogs has been re­duced, our use of peat in gar­dens is now de­grad­ing bogs else­where.

In 2015, more than half of our peat came from Ire­land and around seven per cent from else­where in Europe (pri­mar­ily the Baltic States) – leav­ing a third (around 700,000 tonnes) from peat-lands in Scot­land, Eng­land and North­ern Ire­land.

In Ire­land, which is ob­vi­ously close to my heart, the old days of fam­ily plots on a bog still do ex­ist, like this shot here of the Carna Bog in Con­nemara from two weeks ago, but vast swathes of Ir­ish bog­land have been ripped up over the past forty years, and to hear that it is now be­ing ex­ported to the UK is lit­tle short of heart-break­ing.

Peat­land is home to a va­ri­ety of scarce and unique wildlife and pro­vides vi­tal ser­vices for peo­ple.

Peat bogs store vast amounts of car­bon, which must be kept in the ground to avoid con­tribut­ing to cli­mate change. A loss of only five per cent of UK peat­land car­bon would be equal to the UK’s an­nual green­house gas emis­sions.

These bogs also act like a sponge, soak­ing up rain­wa­ter, and can help to re­duce flood risk.

Wa­ter fil­tered through healthy peat bogs is of a higher qual­ity than wa­ter from de­graded bogs, mak­ing it cheaper to treat as drink­ing wa­ter.

Around 70 per cent of our wa­ter comes from Bri­tish up­lands and over half of this passes through peat. Make a, rel­a­tively, old man happy and stick to the al­ter­na­tives.

Carna Bog in Con­nemara, Ire­land

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