With garden centres re-opening today Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust are urging people to go peat free in their gardens to help wildlife. As part of their Action for Insects campaign, which aims to change the future of insects, Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust are asking the local community to make small changes in their gardens, homes and lifestyles that will help insects and other wildlife. One of these small changes is to go peat free in your garden. Peat has been a major ingredient of the compost used in gardening for many years.
Peat is made up of decayed organic matter and vegetation, developing slowly under particular, wet conditions over thousands of years. Peat can be found in wetlands such as bogs and moors, and its composition makes it home to a unique ecosystem. This peat is dug out of wild places, damaging some of the last remaining peatlands in the UK.
When it comes to climate change, peatlands are vital. The excess carbon in our atmosphere is causing the planet to heat up. Peat bogs act like a sponge, absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it like a sink.
But sadly, more than 94% of the UK’s lowland peat bogs have been destroyed or damaged, and a wealth of wildlife has disappeared along with it. This vital habitat isn’t easily replaced.
Ian Cracknell, Advocacy Officer for Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust said,
“Insects are arguably the most important species on the planet for the essential ecosystem services they provide, from pollinating the majority of our food crops to providing a key food source for many other animals. Sadly, insect populations are now suffering worrying declines, with 41% of species currently facing extinction.
“We now have a critical chance to reverse these declines by creating better insect habitats in our gardens and reducing our use of pesticides, or even better by going pesticide free. But we also have an opportunity to protect important places for wildlife every time we buy our gardening supplies.
“Multi-purpose or ‘reduced peat’ compost often contains a high proportion of peat, which has contributed to over 95% of the UK’s peat bogs being destroyed. Peat bogs are unique ecosystems for many plants, birds and insects and are also a significant store of carbon. By committing to only buy peat free compost, you will also be helping to protect these precious wildlife habitats and vital assets in the fight against climate change.”
Peat bogs are home to all sorts of plants, including colourful sphagnum mosses, insect-eating plants, and curious plants such as ‘butterwort’ and ‘bog myrtle’. They also provide an environment for rare dragonflies, spiders and other invertebrates, and a feeding ground for birds, such as golden plover, meadow pipit and skylark .
So Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust urge shoppers before buying compost, always ensure its peat-free – this applies to potted plants too. There are many peat-free composts to choose from, including grow bags. Other options include bark chippings, coconut shells, and wood fibre as a mulch, or composting waste from your own home and garden.
There are many other ways you can help insects and other wildlife. Sign up to take action for insects today and you will receive a free wildlife gardening download from Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust packed full of easy to follow advice and tips to help you create a wildlife and insect-friendly garden, plan your garden and choose the right plants, stop using harmful chemicals inside your home and in your garden and make lifestyle changes that will benefit insects.