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How Protecting Peatlands Can Help Achieve Sustainable Development Goals?

Recognizing that degraded peatlands caused by multiple activities contribute to biodiversity loss, environmental degradation as well as a substantial source of greenhouse gas emissions globally.


  • Globally, peatlands are under threat from a range of land use related factors that have a significant impact on the provision of ecosystem services, such as biodiversity and carbon (C) sequestration/storage. 
  • This results mainly from a lack of awareness of the benefits of peatlands and includes actions such as: drainage, conversion for agriculture, burning, and mining for fuel.
  • In some regions, up to 80% of peatlands have been damaged.

Highlights about Peatlands:

  • Recalling the commitment made by heads of state and government in the outcome document agreement of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20 Conference) titled “The Future we want” that recognized ecosystem conservation, regeneration, and restoration and resilience as important in the face of new and emerging challenges,
  • Recognizing that peatlands occur in more than one hundred and eighty countries across different regions of the world, and the fact that although covering only about 3% of the earth’s land area, it contain a far higher proportion of global organic soil carbon, making them one of the world’s largest carbon storage, and contributing to global climate change mitigation through sequestration of carbon,
  • Peatlands cover only three per cent of Earth’s surface. However, their degradation due to drainage, fire, agricultural use and forestry can trigger release of the stored carbon in a few decades.
  • The report highlights important case studies from Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Peru in their attempts to map and monitor peatlands.  Peatlands contain 30 per cent of the world’s soil carbon.
  • When drained, these emit greenhouse gases, contributing up to one gigaton of emissions per year through oxidation, according to the report.

Mapping Peatlands:

  • Peatlands are formed due to the accumulation of partially decomposed plant remains over thousands of years under conditions of water-logging.
  • To prevent their further degradation, these areas should be urgently mapped and monitored.
  • The mapping tells us where the peat is and what condition it is in.
  • Together, with conservation and restoration measures, mapping also helps in maintaining
  • water regulation services (reduction of flood intensities) and biodiversity.
  • For countries keen on reducing emissions, monitoring the ground water level of peatlands is vital, or else they can turn into carbon emission sources.
  • Mapping methodologies include both ground and remotely-sensed input data.
  • The monitoring exercise of Peatlands requires a mix of satellite and ground-based Exercises.


  • Degradation and overexploitation of peatland landscapes release huge quantities of greenhouse gasses.
  • Badly degraded peatlands that have been drained for a longer period of time, potentially burned and intensely managed can become hydrophobic.
  • In this case, their re-wetting would not occur via natural means.
  • Though peatlands in North America and the Russian Federation are still intact, about 25 per cent have degraded in Europe, Central and Southeast Asia, East Africa, southern  America and the Amazon.

Restoration Measures:

  • Indonesia, which has 40 per cent of all tropical peatlands, has taken corrective measures to alter drainage and deforestation since the 1980s.
  • Their government created the Peat Ecosystem Restoration Information System (PRIMS), an online platform that provides information on the condition of peatlands and restoration efforts undertaken.
  • Restoration work of highland peatlands was also conducted in the Hindukush Himalayan (HKH) region.
  • This was done to ensure water security for cities in their watersheds.
  • According to an ICIMOD report, the total peat area, excluding China, in the HKH region was 17,106 square kilometres in 2008. The degrading peat area was 8,236 square kilometres.
  • In India, peatlands occupy roughly 320–1,000 Square Kilometres Area.

Other Benefits:

  • Peatlands occur in different climate zones. While in tropical climate, they can occur in mangroves, in Arctic regions, Mosses dominate them. Some mangrove species are popular to develop peatland soils under them.
  • Besides climate mitigation, they are important for archaeology, as they maintain pollen, seeds and human remains for a long time in their acidic and water-logged conditions.
  • The vegetation growing on pristine peatlands provide different kind of fibres for construction activities and handicrafts.
  • They also provide fishing and hunting opportunities. It is also possible to practise paludiculture or wet agriculture on rewetted peatlands.
  • According to the Greifswald Mire Centre Strategy 2018-2022, rewetting of peatlands reduces emissions and can play an important role in achieving the objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
How do peatlands contribute to climate change mitigation?

They store carbon dioxide, acting as natural carbon sinks, and by protecting them, we prevent carbon emissions and help mitigate climate change.

Can it help prevent floods?

Yes, peatlands regulate water flow and can absorb excess water, thus playing a role in flood prevention.

Why are they important for biodiversity?

They provide unique habitats for various plant and animal species, contributing to overall biodiversity preservation.

How can peatlands contribute to sustainable agriculture?

Theycan be use for paludiculture, a sustainable form of wetland agriculture, helping meet food demands without deforestation.

What is the cultural significance of peatlands for indigenous communities?

Many indigenous groups have cultural and spiritual ties to peatlands, making their protection important for preserving cultural heritage.

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