Policy drivers for peatland conservation

Rob Stoneman, Clifton Bain, David Locky, Nick Mawdsley, Michael McLaughlan, Shashi Kumaran-Prentice, Mark Reed, Vicki Swales

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction Peatlands have long been recognised as a high priority for protection under international and national wildlife laws and agreements. Over the last half century this protection has essentially been reactionary in the face of more widespread land management policy and market forces, which have encouraged damage to peatlands. This damage has been mainly to support the delivery of provisioning services, such as food, timber and pulp, or the widespread extraction of peat and oil. Across the world, peatlands of different types face a variety of pressures from land use and land-use change as well as pollution (e.g. atmospheric pollution on British blanket bogs), making them more susceptible to impacts of climate change. Within the general framework of international agreements on peatland conservation, each country has developed its own approach to tackling the threats with varying degrees of success. While established wildlife conservation policy has helped limit the extent of damage to peatlands in some countries, there is a need and opportunity for a stronger and more urgent public policy response to address the significant ongoing losses of peatland biodiversity and ecosystem services. The recognition of the multiple benefits that peatlands provide has presented new avenues to support sustainably managed peatlands, in addition to reducing peatland loss through active restoration (e.g. Bain et al. 2011; Joosten, Tapio-Biström and Tol 2012). This chapter presents an overview of the principal international and national policy drivers, with examples from selected countries across the world to highlight how new resources could be directed at wise use and conservation of peatlands. Global overview of policy drivers for peatland conservation While peatlands have been regarded as wastelands, and areas to be ‘improved’ for agriculture and forestry since the late eighteenth century (Chapter 2), they are now recognised for their wildlife and increasingly for their ecosystem services. Peatlands, therefore, feature in some of the world’s highest-level environmental policies. One of the earliest global agreements to recognise the importance of peatlands for protection was the Ramsar Convention (1971) that promoted the establishment and management of a network of protected wetlands. In 1996, it was reported that though peatlands represented 50% of the world’s freshwater and terrestrial wetlands, less than 10% of the designated Ramsar sites had peatland as their dominant habitat (Chapter 15). Given continuing peatland loss and degradation, Contracting Parties set out guidelines to improve peatland protection (Ramsar 2003).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPeatland Restoration and Ecosystem Services
Subtitle of host publicationScience, Policy and Practice
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9781139177788
ISBN (Print)9781107025189
Publication statusPrint publication - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


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