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In Britain, particularly England, peat has been badly affected by drainage which has allowed bogs to dry out burning, overgrazing and industrial pollution. The higher ambient temperatures seen over the last decade are a new threat.

The National Trust believes this may be contributing significant quantities of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere but says the exact amount is not known.

“We can only make a ‘guesstimate’ at how much UK peatlands are leaking carbon, because only certain peatlands have been studied in any detail,” said Assistant Policy Director Ellie Robinson.

“There are just a handful of people working on this, and there’s a desperate need for new funding and co ordination of research.”

What evidence there is suggests that in Scotland, bogs are still absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, while those close to England’s traditional industrial heartlands have been turned by centuries of sulphur and heavy metal pollution into net sources of CO2.

In the Trust’s High Peak Estate in England’s Peak District, scientists found that 1,350 hectares of degraded bog were releasing 37,000 tonnes of carbon per year equivalent, it calculates, to the annual emissions of 18,000 cars.

The Trust is advising landowners to protect bogs by blocking gullies to raise water levels, reducing grazing, preventing fires and managing local tourism.

It wants the government to include good peat practices in stewardship schemes which reward farmers for good environmental management.

It also says landowners should be eligible for carbon credits for managing peat in such a way that emissions are reduced. Credits could then be bought and sold through mechanisms such as the European Emissions Trading Scheme.

A government spokesperson said these issues are already being looked at. “Defra is very aware of the carbon issues raised by the management of peat soils, and takes this very seriously,” she said.

“Tens of thousands of hectares of peat bog are currently being managed through agri environment schemes in a way which will help to combat the negative impacts of climate change.”

Defra is also reviewing its environmental stewardship schemes to see if it can contribute better to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

“It’s not too late to keep our peatlands in a healthy condition,” Ms Robinson told the BBC News website. “But if we don’t, I’m afraid we’re in danger of losing the UK’s largest carbon store.”.
ugg womens slippers uk 'Preserve peat bogs' for climate