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European Climate Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency
News article26 November 2021European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency

How LIFE is protecting Europe's degraded peatlands

Restoring and managing peatlands improves water retention and quality, stores carbon, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and increases biodiversity. Since 1992 LIFE has been working hard on this. 

How LIFE is protecting Europe's degraded peatlands

Peatlands are home to many rare and threatened species found nowhere else. They help to regulate our climate by storing carbon. They can also reduce flooding and act as a buffer against pollution. However, peatlands are disappearing fast and need our help. 

The EU Habitats Directive and the Natura 2000 network of protected areas are vital for saving Europe's peatlands. 33 000 km2 of peatlands are already protected under this Directive across 8 700 Natura 2000 sites. Also, the European Commission's EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 calls for peatland restoration and their strict protection. This is vital as only 10% of Europe's peatlands are currently in good condition. 

Considering the high rates of biodiversity loss and climate change impacts, it is critical to safeguard peatlands through effective management and active restoration. Doing this can help reach the European Green Deal's ambitious targets. 

Between 1992 and 2020, LIFE funded 388 projects that have contributed to the restoration of Europe's drained and degraded peatlands. Almost one-third of these projects have focused primarily on peatlands, while the remainder involves peatland restoration and associated habitats as part of a more extensive landscape approach.

LIFE peatland restoration projects have been implemented in all European peatland-rich countries and regions such as Ireland, Fennoscandia and the Baltic States. Typical actions have included rewetting by damming and closing drainage systems, deforesting drained peatlands and getting rid of invasive alien species. Among the most significant results so far have been the restoration of 170 000 hectares of mires in the United Kingdom and 40% of Belgium's peatlands.

In recent years, some large-scale LIFE peatland restoration projects have brought significant positive impacts on both climate and biodiversity.

The new LIFE programme (2021 - 2027) encourages projects to aim to restore and preserve peatlands; not only in the Natura 2000 network but also outside of it. This includes severely degraded peatlands from agricultural and forestry use as well as from industrial peat extraction. LIFE's experience in developing sophisticated monitoring systems is a big chance for organisations across the board to apply for LIFE funding.

Communicating the importance of peatlands is vital for awareness-raising, and LIFE is well-versed in this area.

Dianna Kopansky, Programme Management Officer and Global Peatlands Initiative Coordinator at UNEP, said: “Linking up to raise awareness of the potential of healthy peatlands for climate action, nature protection and our overall well-being is vital.  Peatlands play an unmatched role in regulating our climate, storing twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests combined. LIFE Peatlands projects have proven that peatlands restoration works and is helping to combat the interlinked planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss. Investing in peatland conservation as a priority alongside their urgent restoration will both protect valuable irrecoverable carbon stores, reduce emissions and safeguard habitats for wildlife while helping to stabilize the water cycle -it is that simple.

A selection of LIFE's peatland projects include:

Want to find out more? 

Factsheet: Peatlands for LIFE

Brochure: Bringing nature back through LIFE

This release is part of the Global Peat Press Project (GP3) campaign, bringing together international partners to highlight the importance of peatlands as vulnerable but valuable ecosystems. It is a coordinated media campaign from the UNEP’s Global Peatlands Initiative (GPI) and the North Pennines AONB Partnership to promote the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) and toward the UNFCCC COP 26 through the work of organisations throughout Europe and beyond.  
A relay of stories from peatland projects worldwide started with the UK as the host of the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, taking place in Glasgow in November. The relay has already featured the North Pennines AONB, the Care-Peat project in Belgium, NUI Galway, five EU transnational projects (Carbon Connects, Care-Peat, DESIRE, LIFE Peat Restore, and CANAPE), Bax & Company who straddle in  the UK, Spain and The Netherlands, The Lancashire Wildlife Trust, The GPI and EUROSITE PEATLANDS MUST BE WET! Social Media Outreach, NABU, Moors for the Future Partnership, Metsähallitus with its Hydrology LIFE Project, Natural Resources Wales and the LIFE Welsh Raised Bogs Project, Community Wetlands Forum and Landscape Finance Lab, Geospatial Insight-Terra Motion, Green Restoration Ireland Coop (GRI), a major restoration effort in Belaurs recognized by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus, The Lancashire Wildlife Trust, UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC), Greifswald Mire Centre (GMC), Conservatoires d’Espaces Naturels (CEN), The North Pennines AONB and now the baton has landed in Belgium.
Join us - share, learn, inspire, experience and act for peatlands, people and the planet. Follow and share using #PeatlandsMatter and #GenerationRestoration



  • About the Global Peatlands Initiative (GPI):

The Global Peatlands Initiative is an international partnership launched at the UNFCCC COP in Marrakech, Morocco, in late 2016. Led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), our goal is to protect and conserve peatlands as the world’s largest terrestrial organic carbon stock and to prevent it being emitted into the atmosphere.

  • About the European Climate Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA)

The European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) started work on 1 April 2021 with a budget of €50 billion for the 2021-2027 period in order to implement parts of certain EU programmes, including the LIFE Programme. The Agency has a key role in supporting the European Green Deal with a focus on creating synergies to support a sustainable, connected, and decarbonised Europe.

Image 1: LIFE10 NAT/DK/000102/Jan Skriver
Image 2: LIFE03 NAT/B/000019
Image 3: LIFE15 CCM/DE/000138/Katarzyna Bociąg. All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.