REDD+ Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation

FAO's work on peatlands

What is peat?

A peatland is an area of land with layers of accumulated organic surface material in a state of decay (known as peat). Peat develops in waterlogged conditions..  Peatlands represent a huge terrestrial carbon reserve. Damage to these fragile ecosystems, which take thousands of years to form working as a slow carbon sink, is a major source of greenhouse gases. According to the latest global estimates, peatland drainage and fires are estimated to contribute at least 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change. Proper protection and restoration of peatland ecosystems support both the adaptive capacity as well as climate change mitigation efforts as well as maintain the production of other ecosystem services.

Our contribution 

FAO’s peatland objectives are to: assist with the development of responsible peatland management, to develop sustainable livelihoods, enhance environmental services; and reduce negative impacts like greenhouse gas emissions. FAO supports countries in advancing sustainable peatland management through:

  • Knowledge sharing and capacity development,
  • Policies and governance such as integration of peatlands into national plans and reporting, and
  • Technical support at the regional, national and field level.

Technical support includes mapping and monitoring and on the integration of these activities into existing frameworks and institutions.

FAO works on projects covering different aspects of peatland management together with four countries: Indonesia, Peru, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo, in addition to other work at the global level.




The importance of peatlands

While peatlands cover a mere 3 percent of the earth’s ice-free land mass, they contain 30 percent of the world’s organic soil carbon, and may contain more carbon than the world’s forests and atmosphere combined.

Peatlands are estimated to occur across 180 countries worldwide, in all climatic zones, however, the actual distribution of peatland area is still unknown.

Peatlands are becoming increasingly threatened due to lowering of the water table by land uses that involve drainage, which includes agriculture, plantations, logging, grazing and peat extraction for fuel. Drained peatlands currently account for 10 percent of total emissions from the Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use sector.

Moreover, draining of peatlands alters vegetation cover, threatens biodiversity, decreases water quality, causes land subsidence, increases fire frequency and other negative impacts on people, their livelihoods, and the environment. As solutions, rewetting and responsible management of peatlands can help maintain peatland ecosystem services, improve local livelihoods, restore water quality, and assist with climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as disaster risk reduction.

Working with partners

FAO is a founding member of the Global Peatlands Initiative (GPI), which is comprised of over 28 authorities and institutions, working together on peatland conservation and sustainable management, to keep carbon in the soil rather than in the atmosphere, where it would contribute to climate change.

Together the partners contribute to the Global Soil Organic Carbon map.

Contact us: [email protected]