Underwood & Associates has been working to protect and restore peat bogs for over 30 years, although many people have had difficulty understanding their value. For hundreds of years peatlands have been drained for agriculture, development, or to use large blocks of dried peat for a source of heat. However, the true power of peat can only exist when peat is allowed to remain saturated with water in its natural environment. Peatlands store more carbon than any other terrestrial ecosystem (including forests and all other vegetation types combined) even though they only make up 3% of the planet’s surface.
The world is awakening to the power of peatlands, as showcased in the recent Washington Post article, “Serious about climate change? Get serious about peat.” This article corroborates Underwood & Associates' efforts to protect bogs and to pioneer innovative, nature-based solutions to restore and create them. Around the world resolutions are being made to not only preserve remaining peatlands but also to restore them. In fact, many countries made commitments to peatland restoration in The Paris Agreement (an international treaty on climate change).
Our restoration projects take stormwater runoff and transform the excess water into a valuable resource by holding it on the landscape in our unique wetland-creation system. This fosters perennial soil saturation, which is necessary for a bog-like habitat to form. We vegetate our projects with native species that are particularly good at forming peat, such as sphagnum moss, water lilies, and Atlantic white cedars. Peat is formed over hundreds even thousands of years by the buildup of slowly decaying plant and even some animal matter in conditions that are waterlogged and oxygen-poor for most of the year. These organic remains form a squishy, soggy soil formally categorized by soil scientists as a histosol. Many layers of histosol accumulate and eventually become peat.
The benefits of bogs go far beyond sequestering carbon. They harbor unique and rare species, such as pitcher plants and sundews. They clean and filter water while absorbing large amounts of runoff and rainfall, thereby alleviating flooding. Our many bog projects, including Howards Branch and North Grays Bog to name just two, provide these functions for local communities in Anne Arundel County. Bogs are some of the most valuable ecoystems on the planet, and we pride ourselves on our ongoing commitment to the preservation, restoration, and creation of bogs around Anne Arundel County and the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
To combat climate change and mitigate its effects, many restoration tools must be used. Much of traditional restoration has focused on drawdown solutions to remove carbon from the atmosphere through efforts such as tree plantings. While reforestation is undoubtedly important, consider that while peatlands are an invaluable carbon sink, they can also become a source of greenhouse gases when destroyed or damaged, as the carbon they were storing gets released into the atmosphere. Nearly 6% of global carbon dioxide emissions come from degraded or drained peatlands. Therefore, restoring peatlands is an equally important solution as reforestation for reducing CO2 emissions.
Underwood & Associates has appreciated the power of peat for many years, and we are thrilled to see a global awakening to restore the earth’s peatlands. We will continue to play our part in our little corner of the world, mimicking nature and restoring balance to the bogs of the Chesapeake.