Peatlands are a globally significant store of carbon. During the second half of the 20th century new planting techniques combined with tax incentives encouraged commercial forestry across large areas of peat bog in the UK, particularly in the Flow Country of northern Scotland. Such planting was controversial and was ultimately halted by removal of the tax incentives, and policies to prevent new planting. Here we review the literature on UK peatland afforestation in relation to carbon and climate implications, and identify key issues for future research. The effects of conifer planting on peat bog carbon storage in the UK are poorly understood. A large body of research on peatland forestry exists, particularly from naturally forested fen peatlands in Fennoscandia and Russia, but the different conditions in the UK mean that results are not directly transferable. Data on the responses of UK peat bogs to afforestation are required to address this shortfall. Studies are required that quantify the loss of carbon from the peat and evaluate it against the accumulation of carbon above and below ground in trees, considering the likely residence time of carbon in wood products.
Bibliographical noteACKNOWLEDGEMENTS We thank Mark Hancock of RSPB for comments on the manuscript. We also thank the Leverhulme Trust for our main support through grant RPG-2015-162; and the British Ecological Society and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland. RJP thanks the Russian Science Foundation (14-14-00891) and the NERC Valuing Nature Programme for personal support.
AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS The initial text was produced by T.J. Sloan. It was substantially revised and amended by all the other authors, who each provided ideas and passages of text for the final version.
- Flow country
- Greenhouse gases