A little while ago I trudged up above the stunning lake Vynrnwy reservoir in Mid Wales, laden down with tripod, lenses, camera and various kit to film the amazing landscape up there and to interview Mike Walker the Manager of the RSPB Lake Vyrnwy reserve about, wait for it…Peat!
Doesn’t sound very sexy does it!? well you may think that now but hang about and you’ll soon think that peat will be competing in the sexy stakes with a Ferrari and some woman off’ Mad men’!
Many people see peat bogs as soggy barren places where you get stuck and lose your wellington boot in, or where archaeologists dig up the occasional perfectly preserved four thousand year old body! The closest many of us will get to a peat bog is picking up the bagged up stuff at our local garden centre to pot plants! (Don’t do this, buy the ecologically friendly stuff)
Peat bogs have been getting a rather lot of publicity lately. For example a while ago a peat bog over six times the size of wales was discovered in the Congo! It’s heartening to see journalists using the size of wales measurement in a positive way on this occasion. It’s usually used to measure the area of trees cut down in the amazon. Are they trying to suggest something?! Anyway back to Peat..
So what exactly is Peat? Well peat is waterlogged soil, made up partially decomposed vegetation, mostly Sphagnum moss. Over thousands of years that vegetation has been growing and compacting at a rate of a miniscule 0.5-1mm a year. It doesn’t sound like much but over millennia many peat bogs have become 4-6 metres deep some even more. As the bog grows and the moss partially decomposes to form peat, it draws in that all important climate change gas Carbon dioxide and stores it as Carbon within the peat. And it’s incredibly efficient at doing that.
Yes while making the peatland film I started getting in to peat in a big way! Yes rock and roll I know! But the inspiration was talking to Mike on top of a moorland in this little explored corner of Wales.. Throughout the day Mike dropped in a myriad fascinating ‘did you knows’ about Peat, here are some…
-Although peat lands only cover around 3 percent of the world’s surface they contain more carbon than all the worlds’ rainforests.
-Peatlands are the UKs single most important terrestrial carbon store containing 20 times more carbon than all UK forests.
– In Wales nine times more Carbon is stored in peat than in all vegetation.
Cool? I think so. Please read on…
So just like cutting down rainforests releases carbon dioxide in to the atmosphere draining and drying out peat bogs does the same. It is estimated that those drained and damaged peat bogs in the UK currently pump out 3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide a year that’s equivalent to the average emissions of 660,000 households (that’s all the houses of Edinburgh Cardiff and Leeds combined!) ..
However- and this is the true value and potential of peat- unlike rainforests who take decades to restore, damaged peatlands can be returned through filling in drainage ditches with a digger to a functioning peat bog that is drawing in carbon in in matter of years. Indeed on average healthy peat bogs removes between 30-70 tons of Carbon per Km2 from the atmosphere annually.
I absorbed these facts with the greatest of enthusiasm almost as much as my trousers absorbed water in the squelchy bog throughout the day! It can sometimes be difficult to get those low to the ground macro shots of peat and water without getting your knees and elbows soaked! Top tip, bring waterproof trousers when filming peat!
After the trip I really started seeing the value and potential of restoring these upland areas and yes Peat is now sexy! So much so it may be giving Christina Hendricks and a Ferrari a run for their money in the next world top 10 sexy stuff… Well ok maybe not!
In the meantime if you ever find yourself walking across or maybe getting your wellie stuck in a squelchy bog in some of Wales’ spectacular upland areas stop and consider for a moment that the ground your standing on was not so long ago seen as a barren landscape with little value, but is now quite possibly one of the most important landscape in Europe and the world and may just hold the key to our and our children’s future. To see Mike and others talk about the value of peat check out the peat land film on the website. The interview was shot on a Canon 5DmkII.