Peatlands and peat

Peatlands or mires are wetland ecosystems that are characterised by the accumulation of organic matter. This is produced and deposited at a greater rate than it is decomposed, leading to the formation of peat.

The term mire can probably be considered as a slightly wider concept than peatland, because it encompasses all peat-forming habitats and this feature distinguishes mires from all other ecosystems.

Peatlands play an important role in the biosphere. They interact with fundamental life-support processes, involving biogeochemical cycling, food-chain support, hydrological dynamics and water quality, and provide habitats for many characteristic and some highly adapted plant and animal species.

Peatlands are associated with some of the world’s least as well as some of its most productive ecosystems, and they are found from high cold-temperate latitudes to the tropics.

Over 90% of peatlands are in the temperate and cold belt in the Northern Hemisphere. The remaining area is concentrated in tropical and sub-tropical latitudes, much of it under forest.