Why Peat-free is Important
Judith Drexler, Wetland Ecologist
Royal All-Natural Worm Bedding does not contain peat moss. Why is that important? In a nutshell, “peat” is the highly organic soil that forms peatland ecosystems. Harvesting peat damages peatland habitat and releases carbon into the atmosphere, which exacerbates global warming.
Peat used for horticulture in the USA comes almost entirely from Sphagnum moss covered bogs and fens in Canada. The difference between these wetland types is that bogs receive almost all their water from precipitation whereas fens receive at least some groundwater inflow from the landscape. Globally, peatlands cover about 3% of the land but store around 30% of the carbon in soils. In addition, peatlands provide habitat for many threatened and endangered birds, amphibians, and plants.
Harvesting of peat involves first draining the peat, removing the surface to access the partially decomposed layers beneath, and then using heavy equipment such as a vacuum harvester for collection. Drainage results in major and often irreversible changes to peatland habitat. Because peat is mainly composed of water, drainage causes the collapse of the peat body and leads to faster rates of decomposition than under the peatland’s original waterlogged condition.
Peat cannot quickly regrow as layers form slowly (about 1 mm (0.039 in. per year). Typically, peatlands in which peat is harvested are thousands of years old.
Bottom line: If you prefer to garden sustainably without increasing carbon emissions and harming sensitive ecosystems, it is best to avoid the use of peat moss. Excellent alternatives exist including Royal All-Natural Worm Bedding.
Higgins, Adrian. Is this popular gardening material bad for the planet? Washington Post 5/11/2017; https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/should-sustainable-gardeners-use-peat-moss/2017/05/09/1fc746f0-3118-11e7-9534-00e4656c22aa_story.html.
Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development. Peatlands Management web page. https://gov.mb.ca/forest/land-management/peatlands/index.html
Rochefort, L., Strack, M., Poulin, M., Price, J.S., Graf, M., Desrochers, A., and Lavoie, C. 2012. Northern peatlands (Chapter 9). In: Wetland Habitats of North America: Ecology and Conservation Concerns, Batzer, D.P. and Baldwin, A.H. (eds.), University of California Press, Berkeley, pp. 119-134.