The International Peatland Fire Network: Rationale and Introduction

Peatlands are occurring in all vegetation zones and in the majority of countries throughout the world. They represent a large reservoir of terrestrial carbon that has been accumulated since the last ice age – tentatively a total of up 500 billion tonnes. Many peatland sites have been drained and cultivated with the help of fire for hundreds of years. Nowadays we are recognizing that the remaining peatlands represent important refugia for biodiversity. Further conversion of peatlands to other land-use systems, with and without the help of fire, and encroaching wildfires are now considered a major source of transfer of terrestrial carbon to the atmosphere. Smoke pollution from peat is also a major threat to human health. In some regions of the tropics and the northern hemisphere, the combined effects of land-use change and climate variability have resulted in an increased vulnerability of peatlands and extended peat fire episodes. High priority must, therefore, be given to the protection of peatlands against uncontrolled and undesirable burning. However, maintenance and restoration of biodiversity in certain peatland and wetland biomes, e.g. peatland habitats in Northwest Europe created by cultivation practices or wetlands in the Southeast of the United States of America, is also calling for application of prescribed fire.


An Activity of the Global Wildland Fire Network