People around the world also depend on peatlands for their livelihoods and they are important sources of food, water, and biodiversity, including hosting endangered species like orangutans and the Sumatran Tiger. Healthy peatlands can help prevent droughts, floods and intrusion of salt water into agricultural areas.
When peat is set alight, enormous levels of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere. This contributes to climate change and raises serious public health concerns.
In the northern hemisphere, permafrost is thawing and causing peat to dry out. In tropical areas, peatlands are being drained, cleared and set alight to make way for agricultural plantations that produce palm oil and wood pulp. In the peatlands of Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo alone, forest cover fell by more than half between 1990 and 2010 - from 77% to 36%.
What is being done to turn this around? Find more information in this Peatlands infographic.
Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)