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Volume 3 (2008): Article 8
Peat in horticulture and conservation: the UK response to a changing world
by P.D. Alexander, N.C. Bragg, R. Meade, G. Padelopoulos and O. Watts
Published online: 07.11.2008
Peat bogs are increasingly recognised as valuable habitats for wildlife and important stores of carbon. Yet the UK horticultural industry relies heavily on peat sourced from bogs in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Environmentalists, government and horticultural businesses in the UK now recognise the environmental consequences of using peat in horticulture, and the industry is turning increasingly to sustainable raw materials. In this paper, the strengths and weaknesses of campaigning since 1990 to implement this change are analysed, with the intention of providing useful information for other countries facing similar challenges. The campaign encountered deeply-ingrained practices so that the shift in behaviour has been slow and, although now widespread, still meets resistance in some quarters. The UK Government introduced targets for peat replacement which have helped stimulate the industry to develop suitable alternatives. The major gardening retailers have included peat replacement targets in their environmental codes of practice, and these are being met through incremental peat dilution with alternative materials such as green compost and processed timber by-products. Legislative requirements for European biodiversity conservation have led the UK government to terminate peat extraction on significant areas of former commercial extraction. The importance of peatlands for carbon sequestration and the major issue of climate change are increasingly focusing attention on peatland conservation, pointing towards the need for a more consistent approach to the use of peat across the European Community.
Alexander, P.D., Bragg, N.C., Meade, R., Padelopoulos, G. & Watts, O. (2008): Peat in horticulture and conservation: the UK response to a changing world. Mires and Peat 3: Art. 8. (Online: http://www.mires-and-peat.net/pages/volumes/map03/map0308.php)
IMCG and IPS acknowledge the work of the reviewers.