A Carbon Timebomb

A Carbon Timebomb

28 March 2007

published by news.sky.com

United Kingdom — The morning fog has lifted and the Peak District is bathedin a warm, spring sun.

Erosion in the Peak District I am striding across its peatlands taking in the views, struggling to believe that beneath my feet lies an altogether murkier story, writes Sky News reporter Rose Gretton.

Healthy peat bogs harbour huge quantities of carbon.

But increasingly, the UK’s peat reserves are leaking those supplies into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide – the major contributor to climate change.

And it is all because peatlands are one of our fastest-eroding landscapes.

Carl Hawke is an ecologist with the National Trust.  He takes me to oneof the many gullies that now scar the Peak District.

It is deep and wide, with unhealthy, dry-looking peat exposed near thetop.

He explains that our generally warmer temperatures are accelerating thedecomposition of the peat.

As it dries out, the carbon oxidises and is lost to the atmosphere as carbondioxide.

“If the peat is lost it will end up contributing to climate change andglobal warming in the future in a massive way, much more than we realise,” Carlsaid.

“Peat actually contains something like 65% of the carbon dioxide on theplanet.”

Sky’ Rose Gettona Peat only covers about three precent of global land surface, but it stores twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests combined.

The UK has about 15% of the world’s peatlands by area, storing approximately 3.27 gigatonnes of carbon.

For that reason, the National Trust says the government should make peatland conservation much more of a priority in tackling climate change. 

Ellie Robinson, assistant director of policy at the National Trust, said: “It’s one of the areas where there are lots of opportunities coming through, whether it’s for wildlife, water, or for carbon management.

“They could actually be looking to the win-wins in terms of tacklingpeatlands.”

As I wrestle my welly from the thick bog, I can’t help but wonder if theissue of peatland erosion has been understated and overlooked. 

Our peat bogs are degrading faster than that of other nations and there is adanger it has become the hidden carbon timebomb.

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