Rannoch Moor and the snow covered hills of Blackmount, West Highland. ©Lorne Gill/SNH.

Benefits of healthy peatlands

Scotland’s peatlands cover some 2 million hectares – almost the size of Wales – and hold most (53%) of our terrestrial carbon store.

Scotland’s peatlands hold around 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon in total. The deeper the peat soil, the more carbon it stores. Active peatlands capture about 0.25 tonnes of carbon per hectare each year if undisturbed.

Healthy peatlands also:

  • benefit biodiversity – as an internationally important wildlife habitat;
  • regulating atmospheric pollutants - by absorbing pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen and heavy metals; 
  • improve water quality – by reducing the amount of carbon in water, which results in water discolouration and requires extra treatment before it comes through our taps;  
  • reduce flooding ­– by regulating run-off and maintain base flows in upland streams during dry spells; 
  • support our economy – whether used in farming, tourism or crafting, or by indirectly benefiting whisky production and fisheries;
  • shape our landscapes – enabling recreation and improving our quality of life;
  • reveal our past – pollen, plant and insect remains can be studied to tell us about past changes in climate, environment and vegetation.

Degraded bogs emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change. To prevent damage, overgrazing and practices that require drainage of peatlands must be avoided.

Restoring peat-forming habitat previously drained or damaged by re-wetting and ultimately reconnecting peatlands to their catchments ensures that the bog remains a long-term carbon sink rather than a greenhouse gas source.

Land managers can learn how to assess the health of peatlands using the Peatland Condition Assessment support tool.

Restoration funding:

Peatland ACTION is helping to restore damaged peatlands across Scotland. If you have a peatland restoration project that you think might be eligible for funding and would like to speak to one of our advisors please contact us at [email protected]