The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)

Wild­fire may have dou­bled green­house gas emis­sions

Cli­mate: Fears over re­leased car­bon

- BY CHRIS MACLEN­NAN Climate Change · Disasters · Ecology · Scotland · World Wide Fund for Nature · WWF · United Nations · UNESCO · United Kingdom · Scottish Government · Caithness · University of the Highlands and Islands

A sin­gle wild­fire in the north this sum­mer is be­lieved to have dou­bled Scot­land’s car­bon emis­sions for the six days it burned.

The wild­fire in the Flow Coun­try is thought to have re­leased 174,000 tonnes of car­bon, which roughly trans­lates to about 6.2 days of the av­er­age green­house gas emis­sions for the en­tire na­tion.

The fire, which spread across an area of around 5,000 hectares of peat-rich land, took hold in May.

The stark fig­ure lays bare the di­rect ef­fect just one fire can have on the en­vi­ron­ment – par­tic­u­larly at a site which acts as a nat­u­ral car­bon store.

Cam­paign­ers are now call­ing for £20 mil­lion to pro­tect peat­lands, in­clud­ing the fa­mous Caith­ness and Suther­land site, after re­search by the World Wide Fund for Na­ture (WWF) an­a­lysed the ef­fects of May’s fire.

The area, which is pro­tected by the United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion (Unesco) as a world her­itage site, is renowned for its rare blan­ket peat­land and is es­ti­mated to store 400 mil­lion tonnes of car­bon.

Gina Han­ra­han, head of pol­icy for WWF Scot­land said: “We’re fac­ing twin cli­mate and na­ture crises.

“Peo­ple and na­ture in the UK are al­ready feel­ing the im­pacts of cli­mate change, and we have lit­tle time left to act if we are to avoid its worst ef­fects.

“This anal­y­sis puts into stark fig­ures the im­por­tance of our peat­lands and the huge cost to cli­mate and na­ture when some­thing goes wrong.”

She added: “How we man­age and care for our peat­lands in­flu­ences their ef­fect on cli­mate change, as well as fire risk and how the habi­tat re­sponds, so pro­tect­ing and restor­ing peat­lands needs to be a vi­tal part of our re­sponse to both the cli­mate and na­ture crises. That’s why we need to see in­creased, long-term fund­ing for peat­land restora­tion in the next Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment bud­get.”

The as­sess­ment of the dam­age has led to a fur­ther study be­ing launched by sci­en­tists at the Univer­sity of the High­lands and Is­lands which will draw on how dif­fer­ent styles of land man­age­ment have af­fected the im­pact of the fire.

 ??  ?? DAM­AGE: The Flow Coun­try fire af­fected thou­sands of hectares of peat-rich land
DAM­AGE: The Flow Coun­try fire af­fected thou­sands of hectares of peat-rich land

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