Wetland Conservation

Peatlands and their importance


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Peatlands

Mains level: Ecological significance of Peatland conservation

Sustainably managing peatlands — peat-swamp forests found around the tropics — can protect humans from future pandemics, according to a new study.

What are Peatlands?

  • Peatlands are terrestrial wetland ecosystems in which waterlogged conditions prevent plant material from fully decomposing.
  • Consequently, the production of organic matter exceeds its decomposition, which results in a net accumulation of peat.
  • Over millennia this material builds up and becomes several metres thick.
  • They occur in almost every country on Earth, currently covering 3% of the global land surface.
  • Peatland landscapes are varied – from blanket bog landscapes with open, treeless vegetation in the Flow Country of Scotland – a tentative World Heritage site – to swamp forests in Southeast Asia.

Their importance

  • Peatlands are the largest natural terrestrial carbon store. This area sequesters 0.37 gigatonnes of CO2 a year.
  • In their natural, wet state peatlands provide vital ecosystem services.
  • By regulating water flows, they help minimise the risk of flooding and drought and prevent seawater intrusion.
  • In many parts of the world, peatlands supply food, fibre and other local products that sustain local economies.
  • They also preserve important ecological and archaeological information such as pollen records and human artefacts.

Try this PYQ now:

In the context of mitigating the impending global warming due to anthropogenic emission of carbon dioxide, which of the following can be the potential sites for carbon sequestration?

  1. Abandoned and Uneconomic coal seams
  2. Depleted oil and gas reservoirs
  3. Subterranean deep saline formations

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 1 and 3 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Why conserve peatlands?

  • The protection and restoration of peatlands are vital in the transition towards a low-carbon and circular economy.
  • Damaged peatlands contribute about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions from the land-use sector.
  • CO2 emissions from drained peatlands are estimated at 1.3 gigatonnes of CO2 annually.
  • This is equivalent to 5.6% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions.
  • Draining peatlands reduces the quality of drinking water due to pollution from dissolved compounds.

What is the new study?

  • Peatlands were rich in biodiversity, including many potential vertebrate and invertebrate vectors, or carriers of disease, the study said.
  • These included numerous vertebrates known to represent a risk of spreading zoonotic diseases, such as bats, rodents, pangolins and primates.
  • These areas also faced high levels of habitat disruption such as wild or human-made fires and wildlife harvesting that was perfect conditions for potential emerging zoonotic diseases.
  • The first reported case of Ebola in 1976 was from a peatland area.
  • The cradle of the HIV/AIDS pandemic was believed to be around Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, another area with extensive peatlands.

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