What you need to know about peatlands

April 16, 2024

What you need to know about peatlands

In episode #15 of the Carblecast, Sander Reuderink, CEO at Carble, explores what peatlands are, why they matter in our fight against climate change, and which GHG Protocol reporting requirements are mandatory for commodity companies. Sander also elaborates on the available data sources and gives a three-step process to report emissions. Please watch the video or keep reading to learn more about peatlands and how to report emissions.

Peatlands: nature’s secret ecosystem powerhouse

People often associate peatlands with whisky. But peatlands, first and foremost, play a pivotal role in our fight against climate change. As peatlands often stand in the shadow of other important ecosystems, we dedicated a Carblecast episode to these intriguing wetlands that bring many 

Peatlands are unique because they have a higher water table than other ecosystems. The high water table enables peatlands to generate more plant mass and organic matter every year than what is decomposed. As the organic matter sinks below the water table, where oxygen is absent, it cannot oxidize. The result is that peatlands have far deeper soils than other ecosystems and sequester more carbon than most types of forests. 

You can find peatlands around the globe, both in the temperate and tropical regions. Within peatlands, you can’t find large trees because these can’t shoot deep roots due to the high water table. 

Why peatlands matter in our fight against climate change

Although peatlands cover only 3% of the Earth’s surface, they store 25% of the soil carbon. This is why these wetlands, also known as fens, bogs, mires, or swamps, are pivotal in absorbing and storing carbon. When peatlands are drained, the water table is lowered, and oxygen contacts the plant and organic matter. As a result, the plant and organic matter oxidize, and carbon dioxide is released. But carbon dioxide, which is already problematic, is not our only problem.

Drained peatlands also release nitrous oxide. An emission 298 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide. Besides nitrous oxide, methane is released as peatlands get drained. Methane is 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide. Draining peatlands has a massive negative impact on our climate. Drained peatlands even amount to 1.8 gigatons of carbon emissions annually: that is 5% on a global scale.

The responsibility of commodity companies

As a commodity company, you should know whether your supply chain is adjacent to or on (drained) peatlands. The GHG Protocol Land Sector & Removals Guidance (draft) requires you to report on emissions from the conversion of peatlands into agricultural use separately. When peatlands transition to agricultural land or forest, companies have to report emissions: not solely carbon dioxide, but also nitrous oxide and methane. 

How to report on emissions from peatlands

To help commodity companies report on emissions from peatlands, we created a five-page guide that explains the benefits of peatlands, the reporting requirements of the GHG Protocol, and how we suggest reporting on these emissions. Download the guide here.

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