Peatlands

Reference work entry

Abstract

Peatlands are ecosystems that are characterized by the accumulation of organic matter that is derived from decaying plant material under permanent water saturation. They have been defined to include areas of land with a naturally accumulated layer of peat, formed from carbon-rich dead and decaying plant material under waterlogged and low oxygen conditions, generally seen as comprising at least 30% dry mass of dead organic material and greater than 30 cm deep. They can develop under a wide range of vegetation types in fresh and saline water, including sphagnum, sedges, reed beds, and shrubs and trees in wet woodland and mangroves. At the ecosystem level, the shape, size, and type of peatlands are determined by the climate and geomorphology as well as the quantity and quality of the water. Peatlands are widespread globally, although there are major gaps in data. Many are under threat from drainage and land conversion with loss of biodiversity and valuable ecosystem services. They are important for carbon storage and provide opportunities for the mitigation of climate change.

Keywords

Peatland Peat Biodiversity Carbon Agriculture Drainage 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Land, Water and SocietyCharles Sturt UniversityAlburyAustralia
  2. 2.UNESCO-IHEThe Institute for Water EducationDelftThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Nova Scotia Department of Natural ResourcesKentvilleCanada

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