A view of the Mawddach Estuary on a clear spring day with woodland lining the shores.
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Nature’s answer to climate change

Not only are these wetland areas thriving with wildlife and vegetation, but they also happen to be nature’s ultimate carbon store.

Understanding peatlands

Peatlands are an integral part of Eryri’s landscape.

The ultimate carbon store
Peatlands store more than twice as much carbon as the world’s forests do. Peatlands cover just 3% of the world’s surface yet hold nearly 30% of all soil carbon
Peatland in Eryri
Despite only covering 12% of Eryri's area, deep peat stores 17 million tonnes of carbon, which is around 52% of the total soil carbon in the National Park.
The Migneint
The Migneint in central Eryri, is an incredibly important peatland which is of European importance for several breeding birds such as the Curlew, Merlin, Hen Harrier and Peregrine.
Formed over many years
It takes 10 years to form 1cm of peat. It would take a millennium to form 1 meter of peat.
A treasure trove of prehistoric artefacts
Many prehistoric treasures have been found in peatlands. The nature of these landscapes means that artefacts from the past don’t decompose and erode.

How do peatlands store carbon?

The waterlogged condition of peatlands is what makes these ecosystems unique. It means that the decomposition rates of plants and vegetation is extremely slow compared to other ecosystems meaning that plants and mosses never completely break down. These conditions allow peatlands to store vast amounts of carbon in the soil.

Peatland wildlife and vegetation
The unique conditions of peatlands attract a unique array of wildlife and vegetation.

Protecting peatlands

Restoring damaged peatlands
Peatlands were once seen as waste lands with little agricultural use, so they were cut for fuel, burned to manage vegetation, and drained to try and improve the land for livestock. All these activities dried out the peat, releasing tonnes of greenhouse gases and depleting that precious carbon store. We now understand the importance of restoring peatlands to their natural, wet form to reduce emissions and protect that carbon store. Peatland restoration projects have become an important part in global efforts to tackle climate change. Around 75% of Welsh peatlands are in a damaged or modified condition. The National Park Authority are actively restoring and managing damaged peatlands in Eryri.

Using peat-free compost
Extracting peat for use in gardening causes peatlands to emit an estimated 16 million tons of carbon every year – roughly equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from over 12 million cars. Luckily, most of our garden plants prefer non-peat composts and there are plenty of peat-free alternatives out there.

Sustainable management
Sustainable management is key to protecting peatland areas. Effective management can include involving local communities in the management plan as well as supporting land managers to manage peatlands sustainably. Already, changes in grazing have made huge improvements on some sites. The National Park Authority have been working with the Peatland Code to find long-term solutions to funding peatland restoration and management through carbon credits.

The Welsh Peatlands Project

The Welsh Peatlands project was a £1m partnership project led by the National Park Authority to help improve the condition of Wales’s peatlands through restoring and managing peatland areas.

Peatland Restoration Project