Wise use of peatlands -- new manual available from IPS and IMCG

21/01/2003

There are peatlands in virtually every climatic zone, on all continents. Peatlands are areas with a naturally accumulated peat layer at the surface - mires are peatlands where peat is being formed and accumulating. Peatlands are the most widespread wetland type of the world; they hold substantial freshwater resources and are important carbon sinks and stores. They are of interest to science for their biodiversity and as unique records of the past. In many areas they are under threat, because peat itself is valuable and useful. Peat can be used for forestry, agriculture, electricity generation, as a growing medium in the horticulture industry, in pollution control, and for many other specific uses.

The commercial users of peat, represented by the International Peat Society (IPS), and the peatland conservation movement, represented by the International Mire Conservation Group (IMCG) met in the late 1990s to see if there was an alternative to confrontation and started a ground-breaking dialogue to prepare a framework within which conflicts over the use of peatlands can be resolved. This culminated in 2002 in a common "Statement on the Wise Use of Mires and Peatlands" (downloadable from www.imcg.net).

During the side event on the "Global Peatland Initiative" on 20 November 2002 at Ramsar's COP8, Jan Sliva, the president of IMCG, and Gerry Hood, the President of IPS, presented the Ramsar Bureau with a first copy of the "Wise Use" book. During three years of consultations and meetings, IPS and IMCG developed detailed guidelines that are now published in the manual "Wise Use of Mires and Peatlands: background and principles including a framework for decision-making". The book is based on specialized input from some fifty experts, written and edited by Hans Joosten (Greifswald University, IMCG) and Donal Clarke (Bord na Móna, Ireland, IPS). The term "wise use" was taken from the Ramsar Convention with the intention to convey the idea that there can be a reasonable approach to choose between using peatlands to meet people's needs and conserving them for their scientific and ecological benefits. The term is defined in the book as those uses of mires and peatlands for which reasonable people now and in the future will not attribute blame.

The new 304-page softcover volume includes 35 pages of bibliographical references, 50 pages of indices, a 15-page glossary, maps and photographs. Publication has been financially supported by DGIS (the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under the Global Peatland Initiative) and assisted by Wetlands International, IUCN-The World Conservation Union, Alterra - Green World Research, and Environment Canada, in addition to the IPS and IMCG.

The book is essential reading for all those who influence mire and peatland management, public sector officials, land-use planning officers, licensing bodies, heritage agencies, grant authorities, environmental protection groups, commercial companies, and others. It can be ordered for 30 EUR plus postage and packing from Natural History Book Service at www.nhbs.com (order code #136158W), sales@nhbs.co.uk.

Two Resolutions adopted by Ramsar COP8 in November 2002 - Resolution VIII.11, Additional guidance for identifying and designating under-represented wetland types as Wetlands of International Importance, and VIII.17, Guidelines for Global Action on Peatlands - were developed by Ramsar's subsidiary expert group, the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP), with significant assistance over the past three years from both the IPS and the IMCG, participating as observer organizations.

-- reported by Tobias Salathé, Ramsar

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