Casey Bryce, University of Bristol
During the long, solitary days of lockdown, I found solace in raising houseplants. Suddenly stuck at home, I had more time to perfect the watering routine of a fussy Swiss cheese plant, and lovingly train our devil’s ivy to delicately frame the bookcases.
But I started noticing that these plants, sourced online, often arrived in the post with a passport. Most had travelled from all over Europe, with one common tagline: contains peat.
As a peatland scientist, these labels instantly filled me with horror. Hidden Peat, a new campaign launched by The Wildlife Trusts, is now highlighting the presence of peat in all sorts of consumer products, including house plants.
Peatlands, such as bogs and fens, store more carbon than all of the world’s forests combined. They trap this carbon in the ground for centuries, preventing it from being released into the atmosphere as greenhouse gases that would further warm the climate.
Peatlands have multiple environmental benefits. They are havens for wildlife, providing habitat for wetland birds, insects and reptiles. They supply more than 70% of our drinking water and help protect our homes from flooding.
So why on earth is peat being ripped from these vital ecosystems and stuffed inside plant pots?
Despite their importance, peatlands have been systematically drained, farmed, dug up and sold over the last century. In the UK, only 1% of lowland peat remains in its natural state.
Instead of acting as a carbon sink, it has become one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK’s land use sector. When waterlogged peat soils are drained, microbes decompose the plant material within it and that results in the release of greenhouse gases such as methaneRead more on theunconventionalgardener.com