The UK’s peatland community is calling for increased investment in its work, as awareness increases of the vital role healthy peatlands play in tackling the climate change and biodiversity crises,

The ninth annual International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) UK peatland programme conference took place last week, co-hosted in Belfast by Pennine PeatLIFE – a partnership project led by the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership, and by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Northern Ireland (DAERA).

This ninth conference marked 10 years of the IUCN UK peatland programme partnership.

More than 200 delegates from organisations across the UK attended.

The conference looked back on the achievements of the UK peatland community over the past ten years, but mainly focused on the future and the need for further investment.

Restoring and maintaining peatlands is a cost effective and natural method to mitigate climate change, and delivers benefits such as flood reduction and drought resilience.

Delegates explored ways to:

l maintain momentum and monitor progress towards the UK Peatland Strategy goals and share experience internationally;

l maximise funding, finance and incentives to deliver healthy peatlands and realise their true value, especially in the face of climate change;

l account for the role of peatlands in meeting national and international agreements.

Paul Leadbitter, peatland programme manager at the North Pennines AONB Partnership, which incorporates the Allen Valleys, said: “Investing in the health of peatlands is investing in the future.

“In order to maximise the potential of peatlands to help tackle climate change, the UK peatland community needs resource to carry out restoration work.

“Healthy peatlands lock in carbon from the atmosphere, while those that are left to degrade will actively leach carbon, contributing to the climate change that we wish to address.”