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  • Print publication year: 2016
  • Online publication date: June 2016

18 - Peatland conservation at the science–practice interface

from Part III - Socio-economic and political solutions to managing natural capital and peatland ecosystem services

Summary

Introduction

The conservation and management of peatlands by practitioners is often assumed to work best when guided by science (e.g. Maltby 1997). However, there are also many excellent peatland management and restoration projects, which have built upon years of practical experience (sometimes through trial and error), undertaken by organisations involved in hands-on peatland conservation. Parry, Holden and Chapman (2014) provide many examples of techniques developed through common sense and ingenuity on the part of practitioners, often with little input from the science community. Often restoration projects have to make progress well before the science is fully understood. Significant investment is being poured into peatland management projects across the world (Parish et al. 2008), and it is important for those investing resources in peatland environments that there is some evaluation of the impacts of such investment. Evaluating the success of peatland management projects may involve the scientific community (e.g. taking measurements of carbon fluxes). In many instances, however, practitioners may involve less stringent measures with success measured by recording some simple visible changes to the landscape. The evaluation of success may indeed be an economic one (Kent 2000) based on cost–benefit analyses (Christie et al. 2011) of, for example, money spent on restoration that has been or will be saved elsewhere through, for instance, improved water quality entering water company treatment works. The observations for measuring peatland conservation success may depend on spatial and temporal scale, geographic settings and project targets, as well as available expertise and funding. There are therefore questions about how we measure success and how scientists, practitioners and policy makers can work closely together to deliver the best outcomes for peatland ecosystem services. Careful attention should be given to the mechanisms for science knowledge exchange between science and practical application so that practical experience and knowledge by those managing peatlands is transferred into the scientific understanding of peatlands. Scientists value the opinions and ideas of the restoration community and there have been recent attempts to move towards improved co-design of research and co-production of knowledge of science and practitioner communities in peatland restoration environments (Reed 2008; Reed et al. 2009).

Taking an ecosystem services approach to peatland conservation means that scientists, practitioners and policy makers have to understand the wider interconnectedness of peatland processes that lead to the provision of goods and services to society.

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