Peatlands are wetland ecosystems that accumulate plant material over time to form layers of peat soil up to 20 meters thick. They are present in 180 countries, cover 3 percent of the world's surface, and store an average of 10 times more carbon per hectare than other ecosystems.
Peatlands are also home to a large share of the world's freshwater resources and are critical in biodiversity conservation, including for species such as the orangutan and certain cranes.
"Just like a global phaseout of old, energy-guzzling light bulbs or a switch to hybrid cars, protecting and restoring peatlands is perhaps another key for climate change mitigation," ENN quoted Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary General and the executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), as saying.
But, the upsetting fact here is that these particular ecosystems are in danger.
Each year, clearing, draining, and setting fire to peatlands emits more than 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide—equivalent to 10 percent of global emissions from fossil fuels. Human activities and climate change post a particular threat to mountain and coastal peatlands as well.
For the preservation of peatlands, the authors of the study urge the international community to integrate wetlands conservation into climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.
"Investments in peatland protection and restoration can be up to 100 times more cost-effective than other carbon sequestration measures," said Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The report also stresses on the importance of adopting appropriate climate mitigation measures on peatlands.
"Cultivation of biofuel crops such as soy, oil palm, or sugar cane on peatlands generates much more CO2 emissions than saved through fossil fuel substitution," Marcel Silvius of Wetlands International, told ENN. "Construction of wind farms and hydropower reservoirs on peatlands also generate significant emissions," he added.