Peatland Atlas 2023

Facts and figures on wet climate guardians

ALFAwetlands partner, Michael Succow Foundation, is glad to share with us  the recently published Peatland Atlas.

The Peatland Atlas was published in September 2023 by the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, the Michael Succow Stiftung, partner in the Greifswald Mire Centre, and BUND (Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland/Friends of the Earth Germany), with support of the Global Peatlands Initiative.

The Atlas sheds light on the societal perception and history of peatlands, their importance for the global climate and as unique habitats for biodiversity and nature, and their destruction with local and global consequences. It also explains how we can protect peatlands and restore their functionality. It shows the potentials of wet peatlands for climate protection and opportunities for their wet use, called paludiculture, and how decision-makers and society can act now.

All this is outlined in the Peatland Atlas 2023 – Facts and figures on wet climate guardians.

Peatlands worldwide and in Europe 

Although peatlands cover only 3% of the world’s land, they store about twice as much carbon as the biomass of all the world’s forests combined. Thus, they are incredibly important especially for the climate and biodiversity. But worldwide more than 10 % of the 500 million hectares of peatlands are already drained, in parts of Central Europe well over 90 %. Every year, another 500,000 hectares of peatlands are destroyed. Drainage turns peatlands into climate killers, since – once drained – they release huge amounts of greenhouse gases – from permafrost in the north to palm oil plantations in Indonesia. With more than two billion tonnes of CO2, the draining of peatlands is responsible for about 4% of all human-made emissions globally – more than the aviation sector. In addition, drainage is also disastrous for biodiversity. Unique habitats for specially adapted species are being lost. 

“Peatlands can be found in all countries in Europe except Malta. They are concentrated in north-western and eastern Europe and in the Nordic countries. In southern Europe, peatlands are less common. Areas with a natural surface peat layer more than 30 cm thick cover almost 59 million hectares in Europe, this equals 12 percent of the world’s peatlands. If shallower peatlands are included, the total area is 100 million hectares, or about 10 percent of the total surface area. Europe’s main mire regions vary substantially in size, mire diversity, peatland condition and protection. Throughout Europe, only 16 percent of the peatland area is located within protected areas, and often this does not equal adequate protection.”

Dr. Franziska Tanneberger, PostDoc & Head of Greifswald Mire Centre (GMC)
Asbjørn Moen, Professor Emeritus Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Peatlands Explained: This is how mires protect our climate

Further reading

  • Here you may also find the German version, the Mooratlas
  • Graphs & pictures can be downloaded here.
  • Single articles can be found here.

We hope, this Atlas will be useful for your work to protect and restore European peatlands.

Authors of this post: Nina Körner & Marie Lorenz, Michael Succow Foundation

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