When I stepped out of my car to take a picture of an old shed on the side of the road, I landed on what I though was grass. Instantly I felt my muscles tighten to keep my ankles straight. I couldn’t feel the ground below the thick grass. It was as though I was standing on a giant sponge. When I mentioned this to a local they explained that what I had been standing on was not grass, but a thick turf called peat.
Peatland is only found in few parts of the world. Peat grows in cool, wet, oceanic climates. Under these conditions mosses and other plants matter break down very slowly and gradually form a layer of peat. It takes thousands of years for peatlands to develop the deposits of 5 to 8 feet, which is the depth required to produce an efficient carbon sink. Peatlands are the largest natural carbon sinks in the world.
Global peatland distribution
Peat bog in the foreground.
Close up look at the peat.
In Scotland peat is used for fuel, horticulture and the whisky industry. Some Scotch whisky distilleries use peat fires to dry malted barley. The drying process takes about 30 hours and gives the whisky a distinctive smoky flavor.