They can continue to smolder below ground, lasting several months even following days of rain and under snow cover, and spread over long distances (Abel et al., 2011; Betha et al., 2012; Davies et al., 2013; Marlier et al., 2015b). Large- scale peatland fires following drainage have been reported in Western Europe, Russia and Southeast Asia (Boehm & Siegert, 2001; Parish et al., 2008; Joosten et al., 2012; Gaveau et al., 2014a, 2014b; Page & Hooijer, 2016). Smoke from peatland fires can generate a haze that contains dangerous levels of particulates termed “black carbon”, trace metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and nitrated PAHs (Betha et al., 2012; Marlier et al., 2015b). These increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, respiratory conditions and cancer (Betha et al., 2012; Page and Hooijer, 2014; Haikerwal et al., 2015; Adams et al., 2016). The haze can reduce air quality over long distances and spread across national borders. In 2010, peatland fires in Central European Russia caused a disaster that forced millions of people to move

While representing only 0.4 percent of the world’s land, drained peatlands emit nearly five percent of global CO 2 (Joosten, 2015). Peatland fires contribute over the long run an average of 0.5–0.6 GtCO 2 e of this amount, leading to total peatland emissions of over 2 GtCO 2 e. 7 Fire and haze It is estimated that 15 percent of global peatlands have been drained and are used for agriculture, livestock and forestry. Drained peatlands are highly prone to fires, which are particularly difficult to extinguish, and have a range of impacts. In dried peat soils, fires used to control vegetation can easily get out of hand and can penetrate the ground to depths near the water table where the fires can remain undetected.

7 . This figure is roughly equivalent to emissions from 232 million passenger vehicles being driven for a year. gas-equivalencies-calculator.

Underground fires

L ÓPEZ , 2017

Source: Greifswald Mire Centre 2012, original drawn by C. Klobe, C. Klobe, Michael Succow Foundation.

Figure 11. The spread of peatland fire from the surface to subsurface [original drawn by C. Klobe, Michael Succow Foundation].


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