Friday, 26 August 2011

Cut or not cut peat? but never let it burn accidentally

Prof Ian Rotherham, ecologist and landscape historian at Sheffield Hallam University, has written a letter to The Telegraph "Peat cutting must be regulated, not banned". He argues for "enlightened management of peat resouces". The process of peatlands restoration must continue. But he notes that this could be combined with traditional uses as domestic fuel; "we can allow the traditional peat fire to glow gently in the cottage hearth as it has done for centuries".


The debate of protecting human heritage vs. protecting precious ecosytems is a valid one. And it must continue. But often, in fact by far most of the time, more attention is given to the delirebate burning of small quantities of peat for domestic use than to the accidental and unintended burning of peatlands. This are the largest and the longest burning fires on Earth. Some are biogenic. Examples are abundant (for example in UK, Russia, USA and Indonesia). These fires have been burning since past millennia for long periods of time (weeks or months), and consume large amounts of biomass. Smouldering fires consume 50 to 100 times more biomass per unit area than flaming wildfires. The global problem has grown to a current carbon release equivalent to 10-40% of man-made emissions.

Cut or not cut peat, I do not know, but never let it burn accidentally.