A COALITION of environmental organisations are calling on the Government to implement a five-point plan to protect "the UK's rainforest".
The group, which includes the RSPB, North Pennines Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership and the Campaign for National Parks, said urgent action is needed in places such as the North York Moors, Upper Weardale and the Yorkshire Dales as only four per cent of England’s upland peatlands are in good ecological condition.
In a letter to the Secretaries of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Energy and Climate Change, they said the remainder was not living up to its potential for providing homes for nature and combating climate change.
The Yorkshire Dales is home to more blanket bog - the habitat in which peat is formed - than any other national park in England, while the North York Moors and Upper Weardale have been described as carbon sinks, due to having peat, which is dead moorland vegetation and water, that is metres deep in places.
Peatlands store twice as much carbon as the planet's forests and are responsible for at least ten per cent of carbon dioxide emissions, so protecting and restoring them is an effective way of tackling greenhouse gases which cause climate change.
Ecologists say peatlands' importance also stems from them hosting a unique array of flora and fauna, such as specialist sphagnum mosses, sundews, short-eared owls, golden plovers and common lizards.
While peat contains a large amount of carbon, areas that are damaged by practices such as ploughing irrigation channels release carbon into the atmosphere in the form of CO2.
The groups have called on the Government to triple peatland restoration and support existing programmes, explore, rural, public and private fundraising possibilities, include peatlands in greenhouse gas emission monitoring and develop a method to examine their importance.
RSPB conservation director Martin Harper said: “Although our upland peatlands are revered by many, ironically for too long they have been neglected, preventing them from reaching their potential as sources of clean water, sinks to help trap carbon or refuges for threatened species.”
Stephen Trotter, of The Wildlife Trusts said: “If we look after them and help them to recover, they will help us respond to climate change and save money for society in the long term.”