The Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association (CSPMA) is dedicated to developing preservation and responsible reclamation procedures for Canadian peatlands. Founded in 1988, the Association has mandated conservation measures as one of its highest priorities. In 1989, CSPMA initiated a series of discussions and on-site bog visits with Canadian government and public environmental groups to create, in partnership, policies under which the peat industry can conduct its business while safeguarding peatlands for future generations.
Ongoing affiliation with such groups as Environment Canada, North American Wetlands Conservation Council and Ducks Unlimited, as well as with provincial and federal government representatives, will ensure that policies are continuously reviewed and adjusted as required. Background information relevant to the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association’s preservation and reclamation policy is provided in this document.
Peat Bog Reclamation and Preservation Efforts
Protecting the peatland ecosystems is a significant part of the international imperative for environmental safety and protection. In response to that concern and in deference to the integrity of the land, the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association recognizes the need to develop responsible reclamation procedures and to encourage all peat producers to follow them.
The CSPMA initiated the following actions:
1. Bog-Site meeting, August, 1990, Riviere-du-Loup, Quebec
At the invitation of the CSPMA President, officials of Ducks Unlimited, Wildlife Habitat Canada, and Environment Canada visited several bogs in the Riviere-du-Loup area to determine the extent of revegetation on abandoned bogs. Sites visited included bogs that had been abandoned for more than two decades and had pockets of sphagnum regrowth. This was the first of an ongoing series of meetings to review, recommend and adopt an industry-wide reclamation procedure.
2. Issues Paper Written, 1991-92, Canadian Peat Harvesting and the Environment
Mr. David Keys wrote and the North American Wetlands Conservation Council edited and published an Issues Paper on the Canadian peat industry. In it the author noted that the choices for reclamation of harvested bogs included:
- Transforming the site into a new (but ecologically changed) functioning wetland providing habitat for waterfowl,
- Developing an agricultural cropland, or
- Planting a forestry plantation.
3. Co-hosted, with the Peat Research and Development Centre, a Restoration Workshop in 1992 The purpose of the Workshop was to gather information about peatland restoration and identify the shortcomings. It was found that there was little evidence of success for restoring milled peat bog to a functioning peatland. As a result of this meeting it was decided that an ambitious Restoration Research program should be launched. Dr. Line Rochefort of Laval University accepted the challenge and began what has become a 10-year project to find ways to restore natural growth (including sphagnum) on a harvested bog.
4. 1992 – Discovered example of restored peat bog
An excellent example of a naturally restored peat bog was discovered in Shippagan, New Brunswick that had been harvested until 1968. Since that time it has restored itself naturally to a functioning peatland with at least 20 inches of new sphagnum growth, giving it the appearance and function of a natural bog.
5. 1995 – End of first phase of Restoration Research
By the end of the first three-year research project, the Laval University scientists had successfully re-grown sphagnum moss on small plots of cut-over milled peat bogs. The most successful technique was to raise the water table to its original level, spread sphagnum spores (chopped from the top 10 cm of a virgin sphagnum bog) over the peatland and to cover the moss with a mulch of straw. This led to the second three-year project – restoring a larger piece of bog.
6. 1998 – End of the second three-year research project
By the end of the second project, the research team had successfully sewn sphagnum spores on a plot of approximately one acre in size and the growth of the natural peat plants covered nearly 75 percent of the area. A good variety of bog-specific plants were found in the new growth: Including sphagnum species, sun dews, pitcher plants and cranberries.
7. 1997-1998 – Peatland Restoration Guide developed and published
A restoration manual, written by the Laval research team and published by the CSPMA was made available to producers in Canada and other parts of the world. The Restoration Guide describes, in a step-by-step manner, how to go about restoring a cut-over peatland. More than 1,000 copies had been distributed by the end of 1999.
8. 1998 – Peat producers initiate restoration projects based on the research of Laval University
Peat producers started to restore cut-over peat bogs using the techniques developed by the Laval research team.
9. 1999 – Preservation and Reclamation Policy revised
The Preservation and Reclamation Policy was revised to include as a preferred restoration choice: Return harvested peat bog to functioning peatland using the techniques developed through the research carried on by the industry through the 1990s.
10. CSPMA assists environmental group on Miscou Island, NB
The Board of Directors approved a grant to the Miscou Island peat conservation group to assist in providing signage and general maintenance of the natural peatland on the island.
11. 2001 – Peatland Restoration
A total of 10 peat producers have initiated large scale restoration projects using the technology developed by Laval University team, Peat Ecological Research Group (PERG).
12. Issues Paper, Second Edition, published November 2001
Dr. Jean-Yves Daigle and Hélène Gautreau-Daigle wrote and the North American Wetlands Conservation Council edited and published the second edition of an Issues Paper on the Canadian peat industry. In it the authors noted that the choices for reclamation of harvested bogs included:
- Applying best efforts to return a cut-over bog to a functioning peatland using recommended restoration techniques. (See Peatland Restoration Guide)
- Where it is impractical or impossible to fulfil the point above, developing a plan that would include farming the land, planting trees for reforestation or returning it to a functioning wetland and/or wildlife habitat.
Industry and Background
Peat bogs are thousands of years old. The Canadian peat industry, by contrast, is young – about 60 years old. Its three oldest bogs were opened in the late 1930s and early 1940s; most of the current producers started operations since 1960.
Here are some important points to remember about horticultural peat in Canada.
- There are approximately 279 million acres* of peatlands in Canada. Since settlement of Canada, peatlands have been utilized in the following manner:
Reservoirs 2.9 million acres Development 2.2 million acres Ports 1.8 million acres Forestry 62,000 acres Peat harvesting 40,000 acres
Horticultural peat harvesting takes place on less than 0.02 percent of peatlands in Canada.
- Each year there are approximately 1.2 million metric tonnes* of peat moss removed for horticultural use. During the same time, an estimated 70 million tonnes* of peat accumulates across Canada: Nearly 60 times* as much peat accumulating as is being used.
- Because peat moss is harvested at such a slow rate, in the 60 odd years since the industry began, less than 5,000 acres of peatland are ready for restoration. The remainder of the acreage is still being actively harvested.
- Peat moss used in horticulture is not being destroyed; rather it is being harvested in a part of the world that has a surplus, and added to the soil in a part of the world that is in short supply of organic matter.
Three types of restoration/reclamation procedures are recommended by the CSPMA in Canada.
- Return to a functioning peatland
The prime objective of Canadian peat producers is to return a harvested bog to a functioning wetland through the restoration process developed by Laval University. The steps to restoration are outlined in the manual, Peatland Restoration Guide.
- Cultivate for agricultural use
General agriculture, cranberry cultivation and experimental crops are being cultivated on bogs from which most of the horticultural grade peat moss has been removed.
- Cultivate for forestry use
In Atlantic and western Canada, experiments to grow trees on cut-over bogs have been underway for several years. Forestation of peat bogs has been used successfully in several European countries and may become a common restoration alternative in Canada.
*Second edition of Canadian Peat Harvesting and the Environment, Issues Paper