Peatlands: hotspots of biodiversity and carbon megastores under threat

Peatlands cover only three per cent of the land surface of the planet but store around twice as much carbon as all the forests put together, as well as being home to a large number of specialised plant and animal species. As a result of being destroyed and drained by humans, peatlands aren't just getting smaller and smaller. They're also emitting huge amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), which they previously stored in their biomass. Your BENEVITA community coins can help WWF to protect and enhance Swiss peatlands.

Overexploitation reverses the beneficial effect

Intact peatlands store carbon dioxide more effectively than any other ecosystem. By a long way. Forest landscapes cover around a third of the Earth's land area. Even though peatlands take up around ten times less space, they still manage to store twice as much carbon dioxide as forests. But peatlands are under threat.

As a result of peat harvesting, drainage and cultivation, peatlands all over the world are dwindling. In Switzerland too. In the last two centuries, around 90 per cent has been lost. The overexploitation of nature has led to peatlands being transformed from carbon sinks into carbon sources.

When peatlands dry out they emit greenhouse gases. If there's no water, oxygen penetrates the marshland and the peat begins to decompose. The plant material is oxidised, and CO2 is produced and released into the air. Another greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, 300 times more harmful to the climate than CO2, also escapes.

What your community coins can achieve

WWF is working to protect our peatlands by means of three fundamental measures which your donations will help to fund.

  1. Creating awareness: it's a challenge to protect something that few people even know about. WWF is therefore committed to raising awareness and implementing measures to protect peatland.
  2. Rewetting: water is essential for intact peatlands. Regeneration through the rewetting of drained bogs means that typical peatland vegetation can develop again and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.
  3. Nature projects: maintaining and managing existing peatland areas is important for their preservation. Restoration projects involving volunteers and farmers are organised regularly throughout Switzerland.

What is peat and why is it harvested?

Peat consists largely of dead plant material that is not completely decomposed in the water-saturated moorland. Peatland plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, incorporate it into their plant biomass and sequester it after they die. Peat soils take a very long time to develop – about a thousand years for a peat layer of one metre. If the water is removed from the peat soils, the climate-damaging gases are released.

In Switzerland, peatlands and moorland landscapes have been safeguarded since 1987 when voters accepted the Rothenthurm Initiative protecting peatlands. Peat extraction was also banned. This country is alone in this, as almost 29 million tonnes of peat were extracted worldwide in 2020 alone, mainly in Europe.

The reason is that peat is an excellent substrate for growing flowers and vegetables. Unfortunately, imported peat is in great demand in Switzerland too, even though there are now climate-friendly alternativesAnd despite constitutional protection, the area and ecological quality of peatlands continues to decline - a threat to biodiversity and the climate.

Exciting facts about peatlands

Previous successful projects

These WWF projects were accomplished through or with the help of your community coins.

Your community coins supported WWF's educational and political activities. The donations also supported efforts to promote renewable energy as a replacement for fossil fuels. All these measures may help to reduce glacial melting.

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Protecting native wild bees with BENEVITA: Your contributions enabled the WWF project “Nature creates connections” to successfully plant hedges, look after pastures and biodiverse meadows, and conduct public awareness campaigns.

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Seen as a tree of the future, the silver fir is a climate-resistant alternative to the endangered spruce. With your community coins you can support the WWF on "Tannätag", a volunteer-led initiative in which silver fir stands are maintained.

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For the health of mankind and the environment

Man and his environment in perfect harmony - an intact natural world has a direct, positive influence on our wellbeing. That's why SWICA, as a healthcare organisation, supports WWF's environmental work. Read more about our partnership on our website.

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