Valuing Peatlands

Project Mentors: 
Ian Bateman
Steve Albon

Assessing and valuing peatland ecosystem services for sustainable management

Principal investigators: Prof Mark Reed, Birmingham City University (project leader); Prof Aletta Bonn, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Reserach (iDiv), Halle-Jena-Leipzig Helmholtz-Center for Environmental Research and Friedrich-Schiller-University of Jena; Dr Klaus Glenk, Scotland's Rural College; Dr Chris Evans, CEH Bangor.

 Valuing Peatlands
a peatlands scene with light snowPeatlands provide vital services to society, such as helping to mitigate climate change, providing clean water and supporting biodiversity & tourism, but are currently under threat.

Peatlands are an ideal case study for valuing nature research, given the growing evidence linking ecosystem functions, services and markets in peatlands.

The Valuing Peatlands project established a network of people from a wide range of different research areas and held three stakeholder workshops alongside a series of face-to-face and virtual writing workshops.

Why are peatlands important?

Mark Reed, leader of the Peatlands project explains his fascination for peatlands

For me, peatlands are a fascinating place to think about our relationship with nature. So many of us overlook peatlands as bleak, featureless and inhospitable places, without

realising that we all depend on them for the water we drink and for regulating our global climate. Most of us don't even notice the internationally important species and habitats we're trudging through when we go hill walking.

This project is uncovering the hidden value of peatlands, and coming up with new approaches to incorporate those values in the decisions that land owners and policy makers are taking about the future of these precious landscapes.

Project findings

Overview of project findings: Valuing peatland ecosystem services for sustainable management (ESCOM blog, August 2014)

Special section in Ecosystem Services:

Other outputs:

Read more about the project in the pages below: 


Read more about: 
Aletta Bonn
Mark Reed


The Valuing Peatlands project aims to:

1. To use UK peatlands as a policy-relevant case study to:

1.1 Identify options for valuing changes to stocks and flows of multiple ecosystem services in complex socio-ecological systems using both monetary and non-monetary approaches

1.2 Consider how this information might affect the design of financial mechanisms to lever investment in the provision of climate mitigation and adaptation

2. Develop a peatland hub in which researchers and members of the practitioner and policy community can effectively communicate and work together to better understand the value of peatlands and manage them more sustainably.


Read more about: 
Aletta Bonn
Mark Reed



Introduction - Why are peatlands important? 

Peatlands provide vital services to society, nationally and globally, including helping to mitigate climate change, providing clean water, supporting biodiversity and tourism:

Biodiversity: Peatlands form the largest area of semi-natural habitat in the UK, hosting a wealth of nationally and internationally important biodiversity and providing amenity value for millions of people.

Clean water: In the UK, the majority of drinking water comes from surface water that mainly comes from peaty upland catchments. In the past, an estimated 80% of UK peatlands have been damaged or converted to other land uses such as forestry, leading to emission of greenhouse gas, loss of biodiversity and water quality reduction. In the face of climate change, healthy peatlands can help society mitigate and adapt to climate change by providing climate and water regulating services.

Climate change: At the same time, a changing climate can impact on the delivery of these services, and peatlands need to be managed to make them resilient to such change. This requires a full understanding of the stocks of natural capital, the flows of services peatlands provide, and how best to manage these, as well their value and how to integrate restoration and conservation of peatland habitats into innovative financing mechanisms.

Why do we need the Valuing Peatlands project?

The National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) identified significant market failures linked to the supply of ecosystem services which have lead to market failures and degradation of UK ecosystems, with deterioration of both stocks of natural capital and flows of services at an alarming scale.

The NEA also highlighted gaps in our understanding of links between management, function and service flows, and the economic value of these service flows.

There is an urgent need to understand how different groups of beneficiaries value stocks and flows of multiple ecosystem services in complex and uncertain socio-ecological systems.

This information is crucial to inform policy priorities and innovative financial mechanisms that may stimulate both public and private investment in the provision of ecosystem services, for example via Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) related to carbon or water quality markets, or driven by private sector Corporate Social Responsibility policies. Such financial mechanisms/market based instruments are currently in their infancy, and more research is needed to provide companies with the confidence they need to invest in this area.

The work of this network will use UK peatlands as a case study to provide important academic insights into the links between science, values and decision-making in complex socio-ecological systems that can be applied in a range of policy and business settings. It will investigate new methods and approaches to assess stocks, flows, sustainability and uncertainty of ecosystem services at multiple scales, which can be applied across multiple ecosystems.

The peatland focus of this work will provide the network with a series of concrete methodological challenges around which to develop new methods that are applicable to a range of complex socio-ecological systems.

This focus will also enable the project to make concrete policy contributions that have the potential to deliver far-reaching social and economic impact. In particular, the proposed network will identify and develop the research methods and regulatory mechanisms necessary to develop new markets for peatland restoration.

Working closely with relevant policy teams, a range of regulatory and policy options will be explored in the context of implementing the Natural Environment White Paper in England & Wales and with members of Scottish Government’s Rural & Environment Science & Analytical Services Division.

The team is well connected to deliver policy impact with one of the team currently on placement with Defra working on these issues funded by the Living with Environmental Change andRural Economy & Land Use programmes. The IUCN UK Peatland Programme’s Commission of Inquiry on UK Peatlands has raised the profile of these issues considerably over the last year, and one of the team is participating in the development of new guidelines for peatland greenhouse gas accounting by the IPCC.

By making new regulatory and financial mechanisms possible for peatland restoration, the research has the potential for a long-term legacy of better managed and functioning peatlands, which will provide the UK and global society with many vital benefits long into the future.

Linked initiatives


Read more about: 
Aletta Bonn
Mark Reed


Using Payments for Ecosystem Services to meet Water Framework Directive requirements at least cost

Date: 9th May 2012 (full day workshop)

Organisers: Valuing Nature Network with water@leeds

Location: Mint Hotel, Leeds

Price: £50 per person 

Booking: contact


Project publications

Overview of project findings: Valuing peatland ecosystem services for sustainable management (ESCOM blog, August 2014)

Special section in Ecosystem Services:

First workshop report (see Attachments below)

Policy Brief: The Kyoto Protocol and National Accounting for Peatlands (Policy Brief, March 2012)

See presentations from our latest workshop on Reducing the Cost of the Water Framework Directive through Payments for Ecosystem Services or read the Storify (May 2012)

Catchment management using payments for ecosystem services to restore and maintain upland peat (Info Brief, August 2012)


Project presentations


1. Presentations from first project meeting, 18th January 2012 (Leeds)

For workshop report, see Attachments below

Introduction to the Valuing Nature Network by Steve Albon

Overview of the VNN peatland project by Mark Reed

a) Relationships between environmental processes and the delivery of ecosystem services, goods and value in UK peatlands (co-chair: Chris Evans)

Peatland management impacts on carbon/climate regulation - international evidence by John Couwenberg

Peatland management impacts on carbon/climate regulation - UK evidence, spatial configuration of stocks and pressures by Fred Worrall

Peatland management impacts on flood regulation by Joe Holden

Peatland management impacts on water quality and biodiversity by Mike Billett

b) Economic considerations for prioritising peatland restoration and conservation activities on a UK scale (co-chair: Klaus Glenk)

Overview on framework and issues related to prioritising peatland restoration and conservation activities on a UK scale, and link to VNN challenges 1 and 3 by Klaus Glenk

Cost-effectiveness of restoration/conservation measures with respect to net GHG emissions and opportunity cost of restoration/conservation by Andrew Moxey

Who benefits from what and where? Considerations of scale and methods for valuing from peatland restoration/conservation by Marije Schaafsma

Is the Water Framework Directive experience useful for the (spatial) prioritization of peatland restoration? by Julia Martin-Ortega

c) Payments for Ecosystem Services and cross-boundary collaboration between land managers for peatland ecosystem service management (co-chair: Mark Reed)

Towards a framework for peatland PES by Andrew Moxey

Payments for peatland ecosystem services in the Natural Environment White Paper by Helen Dunn

Promoting cross-boundary collaboration for ecosystem service management at landscape scales by Katrin Prager

Incentive design to promote participation and uptake by landowners by Ricardo Scarpa


2. Presentations from stakeholder workshop: "Developing a roadmap for peatland GHG accounting and carbon markets in the UK" (19th January 2012, Leeds)

For workshop report, see Attachments below.

Introduction to the project and brief overview of progress so far, including link to Valuing Nature Network challenge 4 by Aletta Bonn with Clifton Bain, Mark Reed, Chris Evans & Klaus Glenk

Overview of international & national policy framework by Clifton Bain

International Verified Carbon Standard for Peatlands by Igino Emmer, Silvestrum

Peatland rewetting for carbon credits – Experience from Belarus by Zbig Karpowicz, RSPB

GEST Model – vegetation proxy for GHG flux from peatlands by Rob Field, RSPB

Development of carbon code – experience from forestry by Chris Waterfield, Forestry Commission


3. Presentations from workshop on Reducing the cost of the Water Framework Directive through Payments for Ecosystem Services

This workshop was run in collaboration with water@leeds. Around 70 individuals from over 40 organisations met to discuss actions to:


A full briefing paper will be produced following the event to provide information for policy makers and professionals in this field. This will include water company opportunities to meet WFD requirements at reasonable cost, barriers to achieving this, policy recommendations and the role of government, co-operation and actions needed from others (including water companies). The briefing paper will link with the most recent scientific evidence from our Valuing Nature Network project.

Introduction to Payments for Ecosystem Services and the Water Framework Directive by Mark Reed

Peatlands & water quality: degradation, restoration & the water framework directive by Tim Allott (University of Manchester)

Economic aspects of the Water Framework Directive by Julia Martin-Ortega

Sustainable practices in upstream catchments - an economic regulator's view by Martin Furness (Ofwat)

"Upstream thinking" - developing into WFD and Payments for Ecosystem Services by Martin Ross (South West Water)

Using Payments for Water Services to meet WFD requirements by Andrew Walker (Yorkshire Water)

Payments for Ecosystem Services in practice - the SCaMP project by Janine White (United Utilities)

Water Framework Directive & upland management - a regulatory perspective by Harriet Orr (Environment Agency)

Payments for Water Services - a landowners perspective by Simon Thorp (Heather Trust)



Planned Outputs

Type of output


VNN Project Report

Collection of papers (see below) plus outline of full research programme for phase 2 VNN

Papers in peer-reviewed international journals

The following is an indicative list:

  • Review paper of relationships between biodiversity, environmental processes and the delivery of ecosystem services, goods and value in UK peatlands
  • Towards a framework for prioritising peatland restoration and conservation activities in the UK
  • Valuation of water services for prioritization of peatland restoration: existing knowledge and challenges
  • Paper on peatland greenhouse gas accounting and carbon markets

Policy briefings

Policy brief 2: Road map for a UK Peatland Carbon Code

  • Policy brief 1: Peatland GHG accounting and carbon markets – a national and global perspective
  • Policy Brief 3: Policy options for continuing to provide multiple ecosystem services from UK peatlands through Payments for Ecosystem Services
  • Policy Brief 4: Using PES to spread the costs of meeting WFD requirements

Applied Output:  Development toward peatland carbon code

  • Develop a peatland hub for researchers, policy-makers and practitioners, linking with existing initiatives
  • Develop a road map for establishing peatland ecosystem service markets with carbon as a key service and identify innovative financing mechanisms as well as steps towards regulatory framework

Water industry workshop

Co-organised with water@leeds - for presentations see above or here



  • Presentation and meetings with relevant policy teams in Defra and DECC
  • International academic conference presentations


Project findings will feed into ongoing research projects and policy processes e.g. DEFRA’s PES best practice guidelines, St George’s House Consultation on the Future of the Uplands, NERC’s Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services & Sustainability programme...



VNN Day 1 Workshop Report 18 Jan 2012.pdf459.43 KB
VNN Day 2 Workshop Report 19 Jan 2012.pdf412.93 KB
VNNflyer_final.pdf623.77 KB
VNNpeatlands-overview.pdf1.9 MB

Project Timetable




October 2011

Project start

18-19 January 2012

First project workshop – Assessing & Valuing Ecosystem Services from Peatlands (structured around each of the proposed WPs), including a section of the second day to discuss project plans with stakeholders

9th May 2012

PES for the water industry – workshop in Leeds in collaboration with water@leeds (see flyer below)

Feb-April 2012

Report writing

May 2012

Second project workshop (1 day) to review progress and address specific report writing issues

June 2012

Open workshop at IUCN/BES conference ‘Investing in Peatlands: Demonstrating Success

October 2012

Final report submitted


The Team

Principal Investigators:


  1. Mark Reed, University of Aberdeen (project manager, social science lead)  






  1. Aletta Bonn, IUCN UK Peatland Programme (policy and business lead) 






  1. Chris Evans, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Bangor (natural science lead) 







  1. Klaus Glenk, Scottish Agriculture College (environmental economics lead) 




 Social science and economics:

  1. Marije Schaafsma, UEA (environmental economics)
  2. Andrew Moxey, consultant (economics and policy)
  3. Riccardo Scarpa, Queen’s University Belfast (environmental economics)
  4. Julia Martin-Ortega, James Hutton Institute (environmental economics)
  5. Katrin Prager, James Hutton Institute (environmental social scientist)


Natural science:

  1. Hans Joosten, University of Greifswald (carbon, biodiversity, c-policy/economics)
  2. John Couwenberg, University of Greifswald (carbon, biodiversity, c-policy/economics)
  3. Pete Smith, University of Aberdeen (carbon) 
  4. Mike Billett, CEH Edinburgh (carbon)
  5. Fred Worrall, University of Durham (carbon)
  6. Joe Holden, University of Leeds (water)
  7. Mark Parnell (consultant, en:mapping)


Policy and business:

  1. Clifton Bain, IUCN UK Peatland Programme
  2. Graham Wynne, CCC Committee, former RSPB chief executive
  3. Igino Emmer, Sylvestrum



  1. Nick Hanley, University of Stirling (environmental economics)
  2. Helen Dunn (DEFRA)
  3. Steve Albon (VNN, James Hutton Institute)
  4. Ian Bateman (VNN, University of East Anglia)



Mark Reed, University of Aberdeen

Role: Project manager, social science lead


Aletta Bonn, IUCN UK Peatland Programme

Role: Policy and business lead



Chris Evans, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Bangor

Role: Natural science lead



Klaus Glenk, Scottish Agriculture College

Role: Environmental economics lead



Read more about: 
Aletta Bonn
Mark Reed