Restoring Drained Peatlands: A Necessary Step to Achieve Global Climate Goals

L. Dinesen
H. Joosten
Line Rochefort
R. Lindsay
S. Glatzel
Resource Date:

Peatlands cover about 400 million hectares (ha), or 3% of the land surface of our planet. Yet they store more carbon, more effectively and for longer periods, than any other ecosystem on land. Intact peatlands also provide essential ecosystem services such as regulating water cycles, purifying water, and supporting a wealth of biodiversity. Since peat is hidden below ground, it is often unrecognised and can be damaged unknowingly. New, large peatland areas are still being discovered including forest-covered peatlands in the tropics. Around 50 million ha of peatlands globally are currently drained and have been transformed to grazing land, forestry land and cropland, used for peat extraction or impacted by infrastructure. These drained peatlands are responsible for approximately 4% (2 Gt CO2 -eq/year) of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Achieving the climate goals of the Paris Agreement requires protection of all remaining intact peatland and rapid restoration of almost all drained peatlands. This will also contribute to delivering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 6, Target 6.6, on protecting and restoring water related ecosystems and SDG 15, Targets 15.1, on conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, as well as 15.5 on reducing degradation of natural habitats. The United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 provides the opportunity to rapidly scale up efforts.