There are some people who are misinformed about the harvesting of peat moss. The CSPMA is committed to providing accurate information to the public on harvesting and environmental issues.
One common misconceived notion is that peat is “over harvested.” Statements like this are incorrect. Peat moss is not being over-harvested. Here are some important facts to set the record straight:
There are more than 270,000,000 acres, 25% of the world’s supply, of which our industry harvests on less than 40,000 acres, or one acre in 6,000.
Peat is renewable and in terms of its accumulation, peat in Canada is growing more than 70 times as fast as it is being harvested. [According to an issue paper entitled "Canadian Peat Harvesting and the Environment," published by the North American Wetlands Conservation Council (Canada)]
As well, we know that under the right circumstances, sphagnum moss will re-establish itself on a harvested bog. Soon thereafter, from this collection of mosses, peat will accumulate, re-establishing a layer of peat that will continue to grow.
Because a single bog can be harvested for between 15 and 50 years before they are left for restoration, harvesting has been completed on less than 3,000 acres. There are good examples of harvested bogs in Canada where more than one foot of sphagnum moss has re-grown, unaided, during the 10 to 15 years since harvesting has ceased. These bogs look like and provide the functions of virgin bogs.
Even though Canada does not have peat supply concerns, the industry is looking for ways to accelerate peat bog regeneration. Until recently, peat bogs have been left to regenerate, a process that can take up to 20 years. New research in ways to restore bogs quickly, indicates that time can be shortened to five to eight years.
The research projects, in which the industry has invested over $4 million, include transplanting live sphagnum plants, seeding spores of sphagnum taken from live plants, and covering the harvested bog with the top spit from a living bog. This research is complete now and the results are excellent. From the techniques developed through the research, the research team, in cooperation with our Association, has produced a restoration instruction manual entitled Peatland Restoration Guide.
It will take hundreds of years to replace all the peat that was removed, but even while it’s growing we will have a peatland that resumes the most important functions of a bog:
- filtering water,
- acting as a water collection basin,
- accumulating carbon, and
- providing habitat for flora and fauna.
The one function we cannot replace is a virgin bog that stores geo-paleantological history. For that reason, it is important to identify bogs for conservation in all areas of Canada.
Peatlands will regenerate themselves and it is the policy of the Canadian peat industry, and supported by government, to ensure peat is a sustainable resource. The Canadian peat producers have adopted a strict Preservation and Reclamation Policy that calls for, among other things:
- identifying bogs for preservation through environmental assessment;
- using careful harvesting techniques so that restoration can be readily achieved;
- leaving at least three feet of peat at the bottom of the bog; and
- returning of harvested bogs to functioning wetlands.
There should be no concern with continuing to use peat moss as the base of growing media in North America. The resource is huge, the amount of extraction small by comparison and the industry and government are committed to sustainable development.
With respect to pricing issues, the industry is very competitive and good supply is readily available. The current price gives the customer excellent value for the money.
Should you have any other questions regarding Canadian sphagnum peat moss and the environment, we invite you to e-mail us for a prompt reply.