Ever heard of peatlands before? If I were to take a wild guess, a majority will say no. That ends now, peatlands also known as mires, bogs, heaths are wetlands where dead plants accumulate to make thick waterlogged layers. These waterlogged layers are formed in places where the water level is stable and near the surface, hence the remains of dead plants and mosses do not fully decompose due to the absence of oxygen. As a result of this, plants remains slowly build up overtime to form peat. These layers of peat sum up to form peatlands which happens to be important carbon sinks and store up to 20 times more carbon than nearby lowland forest on mineral soils. Peatlands are found in at least 175 countries and cover around 4million square km of the world’s land area, with the largest peatlands found within Southeast Asia of which Indonesia happens to be the country with the highest peatlands on earth.
For years now peatlands have been considered as an unproductive hindrance to growth and development hence these peatlands are being cleared, drained and burnt away to make room for development like plantations, construction and so on. Now as a result of destroying these peatlands alternating cycles of fires and flood have created larger development problems, while greenhouse gas emissions increases causing climate changes, giving rise to reasons why the destruction of peatlands for development is more of a burden than a blessing.
Peatlands which are considered as unproductive in nature turn out to be more of an assets to the world than a liability. This can be seen from the fact that these lands have been of great importance to our biodiversity, local communities, climate as well as growth and development. I would be narrowing my focus on why peatlands matter to our local communities and the world as whole and should not be considered unproductive.
Waking up one morning to discover that your source of a livelihood has been destroyed can be very devastating. Peatlands forest have nearby local communities that depends on these lands for food, water, fuel, materials for the production of domestic goods as well as a source of traditional medicine. Waking up one day to find these peatlands destroyed will deprive local communities around these peatlands the services they get from these lands making their means for a livelihood more difficult hence their chances of survival being threaten.
Secondly, the unique hydrology of these habitats protects the local communities from the risk of flood during the wet season and drought in the dry season. This can be explained from the fact that these lands have the ability to soak and retain heavy rainfall during the wet season and slowly releases the moisture over an extended period of time during the dry season. But if these lands are drained the local communities in that area become susceptible to flood and drought during the wet and dry seasons respectively hence the survival of these local communities are being threaten. Peatlands should be saved.