368 Why Save the Swamps?

Edward Struzik mainly studies the Arctic, but his new book, Swamplands, covers bogs, marshes, swamps, and fens — squishy places that can be found all over the planet, though not much in temperate or tropical areas. These wetlands are stinky (from sulfur dioxide) and buggy, so people have often drained them in order to get farmland and more agreeable places to live. However, they produce peat – a substance that sequesters vastly more carbon than even tropical rainforests. Today peat is still being used as a fuel, but probably the cheapest and most effective way of keeping carbon in the soil is to preserve all existing peatlands.
  • Edward Struzik




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I had assumed that peat’s chief value is that it contains a lot of carbon and keeps it locked up, out of the atmosphere. But one thing I just read says that it “sequesters” a lot of carbon each year — and you suggest that restoring peatlands, either by wetting them or planting new seeds, is an “important tool for combatting climate change.” 

Does that mean that, in addition to keeping the existing amount of carbon out of the air, peat also attracts and strores a lot of additional carbon — an amount that you compared to the effect of forests? I mean, forests continue to draw in more CO2 as long as the trees are alive. Does peat do likewise? By how much? 

Sorry that it did not occur to me to ask this, but if it is continuing significant sequestration, then we should not only retain the existing peatlands but create more of them, right? 

Hi Metta

Peatlands sequesters 0.37 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year – storing more carbon than all other vegetation types in the world combined.

Very much enjoyed our conversation



Yes, but how much NEW carbon dioxide is captured and sequestered each year? Does 0.37 gigatonnes represent the amount that has accumulated from the past and remains stored in the peat? If so, how much MORE is added each year? Trees keep adding more each year until they die, though less and less of it after they are mature. But the big trees, which don’t add more, still CONTAIN more and should be left intact instead of being felled. What’s the equivalent picture re peat? Sorry I didn’t ask that at the time. If 0.37 gigatonnes is the amount ADDED each year, that is truly astounding, but I don’t think that is what you mean. I think it represent the amount that is kept locked up per year, which is obviously a compelling reason not to remove and burn it, but that wouldn’t add more carbon to the deposit annually, would it? Plants do so, unless farmers till the soil and expose the sequestered carbon to the air again.

And I enjoyed our conversation immensely. I hope everyone will watch it.



I don’t have the answer to that because it varies from peatland to peatland and no one as far as I know has quantified it on a global scale. In general, it was found that the lowest carbon accumulation was observed at sites with the lowest water table e.g. forested and sparsely forested peatlands while the highest sequestration rate was observed in Young sphagnum peatlands such as very wet bogs and fens

Last edited 2 years ago by Ed Struzik

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