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Tuesday, 17 January 2017


Peat is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation that forms in wetland bogs, moors, mires, and swamps. It is composed mainly of marshland vegetation: trees, grasses, fungi, as well as other types of organic remains, such as insects, and animal remains.

Peat hags at the start of Allt Lagan a' Bhainne tributary on Eilrig. By Sarah McGuire,

The formation of peat is often the first step in the geological formation of other fossil fuels such as coal, particularly low-grade coal such as lignite.

There are about 4 trillion m³ of peat in the world with Canada, Finland, Ireland and Russia all having large deposits. Peatlands between 2-3% of the land surface of Earth, but are thought to contain twice as much carbon as all the world's forests.

Peat gatherers at Westhay, Somerset Levels in 1905

The Congo Basin peatland is a 56,000-square-mile swamp — an area larger than New York State — and is considered to be the world's largest tropical peatland.

The Congo Basin peatland has accumulated around 30 billion metric tons of carbon over the last 11,000 years, , the equivalent of 20 years worth of U.S. fossil fuel emissions.

Most modern peat bogs formed in high latitudes after the retreat of the glaciers at the end of the last ice age some 9,000 years ago. They usually grow slowly, at the rate of about a millimetre per year.

Peat is harvested as an important source of fuel in some countries, including Ireland and Scotland, where it is traditionally used for cooking and domestic heating.

Peat fire

Peat fires are used to dry malted barley for use in Scotch whisky distillation. This gives Scotch whisky its distinctive smoky flavour, often called "peatiness".

Although peat has many uses for humans, it also presents problems. When dry, it can be a major fire hazard, as peat fires can burn almost indefinitely (or at least until the fuel is exhausted).

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