What are Peatlands?

Peatlands are a type of wetland where constantly water-logged conditions slow the decomposition of dead plants so much that they accumulate as peat. Because the plants don’t rot, or do so very slowly, the carbon that they captured from the atmosphere as carbon dioxide during photosynthesis is trapped, or stored, in them. This is why although it might not look like it on the surface peatlands hold huge amounts of carbon – more than any other habitat type on the planet. It means they provide an overall cooling-effect, helping to address the climate emergency.
Fighting climate change
Storing twice as much carbon as forests, peatlands are important in our fight against climate change.
A natural flood defence
Acting as a natural flood defence, peatlands have an ability to store rainwater and slow the water flow to lower lands.
Preserving ancient treasures
Peatlands provides a unique archive of our past, from ancient pollen to Bronze Aged treasures. Did you know every metre of peat contains 1,000 years of history?

Here’s a digger up on Llwytmor, Western Carneddau, re-profiling exposed peat hags by reducing the slopes of the eroded peat and covering back over with turf. This helps the habitat to recover and prevents it from drying out and releasing carbon. 


What are we doing?

Led by the Welsh Peatlands Sustainable Management Scheme, peatland restoration works have been focused on Gledrffordd and Llwytmor, two of the biggest areas of peat in the Carneddau.

Restoration works have included re-profiling areas of exposed peat that are susceptible to drying out and releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

Eroded peat can also be restored by re-colonising the bare ground with suitable seeds, young Sphagnum moss plants, or mulch, with the help of volunteers.

waterlogged peatland on Gledrffordd
Why is this important?

Peatlands play a vital role in addressing climate change due to their huge potential to store carbon when the habitat is in a healthy condition.

When left unmanaged, exposed, and eroded sections of peat can lead to the loss of wildlife, including birds such as curlews, Merlins and Hen Harriers, due to the declining state of the habitat’s condition.

When in good condition, though, peatlands act like a sponge, absorbing and retaining huge volumes of water, slowing the flow, and helping to prevent the risk of flooding downstream. This sponge effect also means they can continue to feed river systems in drought conditions, which in turn increases the landscape’s resilience to changes in the climate and weather patterns.

Studying peat is a window into the past where biological matter such as pollen has been preserved, thereby providing a record of the historical environment thousands of years ago. This enhances our understanding of how the landscape has evolved and changed through history.

A Guide to Peatlands

Learn more about what peatlands are, how they are formed, and why they’re important to protect.

Natural Resources Wales Peatland Guide
How can you get involved?

Check out our Training page for training opportunities.

Check out the UK Peatland Strategy by the IUCN UK Peatland Programme to learn more.

Check out our Training page for training opportunities.

Check out the UK Peatland Strategy by the IUCN UK Peatland Programme to learn more.