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MSDS | Sustainable Resources | Cost Savings | FAQ's
Frequently Asked Questions Environmental Concerns
The CSPMA Preservation and Reclamation Policy BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON RESTORATION
 

Peat Moss - A sustainable Resource

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Canadian sphagnum peat moss?
Canadian sphagnum peat moss (CSPM) is partially decomposed sphagnum moss. Sphagnum’s large cell structure enables it to absorb air and water like a sponge. Although peat moss does not contain nutrients, it does adsorb nutrients added to or present in the soil, releasing them over time as the plants require. This saves valuable nutrients which are otherwise lost through leaching.

Sphagnum moss is the living moss that grows on top of a sphagnum bog. The fungus sporotrichum schenckii is known to live in this growing moss.

Sphagnum peat moss is the dead material that accumulates as new live material grows on top and exerts pressure on the peat moss below. The fungus is not known to live in the levels of a sphagnum bog where peat forms. Harvesters of horticultural peat moss remove the top few inches of the live sphagnum moss and only harvest the peat from he lower layer.

Is it true that it takes several thousand years for sphagnum peat moss to form?
No. Peat forms at a rate of 1 to 2 millimetres a year. According to a recent study by the North American Wetlands Conservation Council (Canada), harvested peatlands can be restored to ecologically balanced systems within 5 to 20 years after peat harvesting.

Isn’t there a shortage of peatland in Canada? Isn’t harvesting peat moss depleting these areas of wetlands?
No. There are more than 270 million acres of peatlands in Canada. Of that, only one in 6,000 acres (or .016 percent) is being used for peat harvesting. Canadian sphagnum peat moss is a sustainable resource. Annually, peat moss accumulates at more than 70 times the rate it is harvested. Harvested bogs are returned to wetlands so the ecological balance of the area is maintained.

Can the supply of peat moss be completely depleted?
No. The bogs that are being harvested will be restored to functioning wetlands. In addition, there are millions of acres of bogs in national parks and other preserves that can never be harvested.

What is the CSPMA Preservation and Reclamation Policy?
Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association (CSPMA) members agree to abide by the reclamation policy for all new bog development. It includes:

Identifying bogs for preservation

Leaving buffer zones of original vegetation to encourage natural succession after harvesting.

Leaving a layer of peat below harvesting levels to encourage rapid regrowth.

Returning harvested bogs to a wetlands ecosystem, or to other wildlife habitats or agricultural production.

 

Environmental Concerns
There are some people who are misinformed about the harvesting of peat moss. The CSPMA (Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association) is committed to providing accurate information to the public on harvesting and environmental issues.

One common misconceived notion is that peat is "over harvested" and that "prices will inevitably rise". Statement's like this are incorrect. Peat moss is not being over-harvested and prices are lower today than they have been in the past 10 years. Here are some important facts to set the record straight:

Harvest Issues

There are more than 270,000,000 acres, 25% of the world's supply, of which our industry harvests on less than 40,000 acres, or one acre in 6,000.

Peat is renewable and in terms of its accumulation, peat in Canada is growing more than 70 times as fast as it is being harvested. [According to an issue paper entitled "Canadian Peat Harvesting and the Environment," published by the North American Wetlands Conservation Council (Canada)]

As well, we know that under the right circumstances, sphagnum moss will re-establish itself on a harvested bog. Soon thereafter, from this collection of mosses, peat will accumulate, re-establishing a layer of peat that will continue to grow.

Because a single bog can be harvested for between 15 and 50 years before they are left for restoration, harvesting has been completed on less than 3,000 acres. There are good examples of harvested bogs in Canada where more than one foot of sphagnum moss has re-grown, unaided, during the 10 to 15 years since harvesting has ceased. These bogs look like and provide the functions of virgin bogs.

Even though Canada does not have peat supply concerns, the industry is looking for ways to accelerate peat bog regeneration. Until recently, peat bogs have been left to regenerate, a process that can take up to 20 years. New research in ways to restore bogs quickly, indicates that time can be shortened to five to eight years.

The research projects, in which the industry has invested $1 million, include transplanting live sphagnum plants, seeding spores of sphagnum taken from live plants, and covering the harvested bog with the top spit from a living bog. This research is complete now and the results are excellent. From the techniques developed through the research, the research team, in cooperation with our Association, has produced a restoration instruction manual entitled Peatland Restoration Guide.

It will take hundreds of years to replace all the peat that was removed, but even while it's growing we will have is a peatland that resumes the most important functions of a bog:

filtering water,

acting as a water collection basin,

accumulating carbon, and

providing habitat for flora and fauna.

The one function we cannot replace is a virgin bog that stores geo-paleantological history. For that reason, it is important to identify bogs for conservation in all areas of Canada.

Peatlands will regenerate themselves and it is the policy of the Canadian peat industry, and supported by government, to ensure peat is a sustainable resource. The Canadian peat producers have adopted a strict Preservation and Reclamation Policy that calls for, among other things:

identifying bogs for preservation through environmental assessment;

using careful harvesting techniques so that restoration can be readily achieved;

leaving at least three feet of peat at the bottom of the bog; and

returning of harvested bogs to functioning wetlands.

There should be no concern with continuing to use peat moss as the base of growing media in North America. The resource is huge, the amount of extraction small by comparison and the industry and government are committed to sustainable development.

 

The CSPMA Preservation and Reclamation Policy
The Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association and its members have adopted a Preservation and Reclamation Policy that sets out the procedures for opening a bog, harvesting a bog and closing a bog. Highlights of that policy are:

BEFORE HARVESTING
Reduce impact on environment
Record flora, fauna
Cooperate with environmental groups
Choose bogs for reserves
DURING HARVESTING
Minimize acreage
Leave buffer zone
Leave layer of peat moss
Design drainage so water can be restored
AFTER HARVESTING
Primary goal: Restore bogs to wetlands
Secondary goal: Reclaim bogs for beneficial crops
 

POLICY:

1. STATEMENT
The members of the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association will assist and cooperate, wherever possible, with all recognized conservation bodies which are prepared to give constructive help towards complying with this policy. Opportunities will be taken to enhance the public's awareness and enjoyment of our wetland and peatland areas.

2. AIMS AND OBJECTIVES

The CSPMA encourages its members to:

2.1 Reduce the impact of their operations on the environment and strive for maximum land restoration to the continuing benefit of the community.

2.2 Undertake studies, prior to opening new bogs, to ascertain the flora and fauna of virgin peatlands.

2.3 Identify areas of greatest environmental interest and, where possible, leave these undisturbed, to act as a refugia when harvesting ceases.

2.4 Cooperate with recognized conservation bodies in the management of refugia or other areas not required for peat production.

2.5 Work with provincial governments to designate appropriate peat bogs as reserve or parkland for the purposes of study and recreation.

3. PEAT PRODUCTION

The CSPMA encourages its members to:

3.1 Implement a practice of bog management in a way that will keep production acreage to a minimum. Operators should avoid preparing peat bogs for harvesting too far in advance of needs, and initiate reclamation procedures as soon as practical after harvesting stops.

3.2 Leave a buffer zone of original vegetation when bogs are cleared for harvesting.

3.3 When opening new acreage for harvesting, use the top spits material from the bog to spread on other bogs that are ready for restoration.

3.4 Leave a layer of peat beneath the harvest level when work ceases, relevant to the peat-type and area, in order to facilitate plant re-growth.

3.5 Plan bog drainage systems being mindful that one of the preferred reclamation procedures requires damming of ditches to restore the water table.

4. AFTER USE

The CSPMA urges its members to put in place appropriate after-use, such as:

4.1 Apply best efforts to return a cut-over bog to a functioning peatland using recommended restoration techniques. (See Peatland Restoration Guide)

4.2 Where it is impractical or impossible to fulfill point 4.1, develop a plan that would include farming the land, planting trees for reforestation or returning it to a functioning wetland and/or wildlife habitat.

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON RESTORATION

The Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association (CSPMA) is dedicated to developing preservation and responsible reclamation procedures for Canadian peatlands. Founded in 1988, the Association has mandated conservation measures as one of its highest priorities. In 1989, CSPMA initiated a series of discussions and on-site bog visits with Canadian government and public environmental groups to create, in partnership, policies under which the peat industry can conduct its business while safeguarding peatlands for future generations.

Ongoing affiliation with such groups as Environment Canada, North American Wetlands Conservation Council and Ducks Unlimited, as well as with provincial and federal government representatives, will ensure that policies are continuously reviewed and adjusted as required. Background information relevant to the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association's preservation and reclamation policy is provided in this document.

PEAT BOG RECLAMATION AND PRESERVATION EFFORTS
Protecting the peatland ecosystems is a significant part of the international imperative for environmental safety and protection. In response to that concern and in deference to the integrity of the land, the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association recognizes the need to develop responsible reclamation procedures and to encourage all peat producers to follow them.

The CSPMA initiated the following actions:

1. Bog-Site meeting, August, 1990, Riviere-du-Loup, Quebec
At the invitation of the CSPMA President, officials of Ducks Unlimited, Wildlife Habitat Canada, and Environment Canada visited several bogs in the Riviere-du-Loup area to determine the extent of revegetation on abandoned bogs. Sites visited included bogs that had been abandoned for more than two decades and had pockets of sphagnum regrowth. This was the first of an ongoing series of meetings to review, recommend and adopt an industry-wide reclamation procedure.

2. Issues Paper Written, 1991-92, Canadian Peat Harvesting and the Environment
Mr. David Keys wrote and the North American Wetlands Conservation Council edited and published an Issues Paper on the Canadian peat industry. In it the author noted that the choices for reclamation of harvested bogs included:

Transforming the site into a new (but ecologically changed) functioning wetland providing habitat for waterfowl,
Developing an agricultural cropland, or
Planting a forestry plantation.

3. Co-hosted, with the Peat Research and Development Centre, a Restoration Workshop in 1992
The purpose of the Workshop was to gather information about peatland restoration and identify the shortcomings. It was found that there was little evidence of success for restoring milled peat bog to a functioning peatland. As a result of this meeting it was decided that an ambitious Restoration Research program should be launched. Dr. Line Rochefort of Laval University accepted the challenge and began what has become a 10-year project to find ways to restore natural growth (including sphagnum) on a harvested bog.

4. 1992 - Discovered example of restored peat bog
An excellent example of a naturally restored peat bog was discovered in Shippagan, New Brunswick that had been harvested until 1968. Since that time it has restored itself naturally to a functioning peatland with at least 20 inches of new sphagnum growth, giving it the appearance and function of a natural bog.

5. 1995 - End of first phase of Restoration Research
By the end of the first three-year research project, the Laval University scientists had successfully re-grown sphagnum moss on small plots of cut-over milled peat bogs. The most successful technique was to raise the water table to its original level, spread sphagnum spores (chopped from the top 10 cm of a virgin sphagnum bog) over the peatland and to cover the moss with a mulch of straw. This led to the second three-year project - restoring a larger piece of bog.

6. 1998 - End of the second three-year research project
By the end of the second project, the research team had successfully sewn sphagnum spores on a plot of approximately one acre in size and the growth of the natural peat plants covered nearly 75 percent of the area. A good variety of bog-specific plants were found in the new growth: Including sphagnum species, sun dews, pitcher plants and cranberries.

7. 1997-1998 - Peatland Restoration Guide developed and published
A restoration manual, written by the Laval research team and published by the CSPMA was made available to producers in Canada and other parts of the world. The Restoration Guide describes, in a step-by-step manner, how to go about restoring a cut-over peatland. More than 1,000 copies had been distributed by the end of 1999.

8. 1998 - Peat producers initiate restoration projects based on the research of Laval University
Peat producers started to restore cut-over peat bogs using the techniques developed by the Laval research team.

9. 1999 - Preservation and Reclamation Policy revised
The Preservation and Reclamation Policy was revised to include as a preferred restoration choice: Return harvested peat bog to functioning peatland using the techniques developed through the research carried on by the industry through the 1990s.

10. CSPMA assists environmental group on Miscou Island, NB
The Board of Directors approved a grant to the Miscou Island peat conservation group to assist in providing signage and general maintenance of the natural peatland on the island.

11. 2001 - Peatland Restoration
A total of 10 peat producers have initiated large scale restoration projects using the technology developed by Laval University team, Peat Ecological Research Group (PERG).

12. Issues Paper, Second Edition, published November 2001
Dr. Jean-Yves Daigle and Hélène Gautreau-Daigle wrote and the North American Wetlands Conservation Council edited and published the second edition of an Issues Paper on the Canadian peat industry. In it the authors noted that the choices for reclamation of harvested bogs included:

Applying best efforts to return a cut-over bog to a functioning peatland using recommended restoration techniques. (See Peatland Restoration Guide)
Where it is impractical or impossible to fulfil the point above, developing a plan that would include farming the land, planting trees for reforestation or returning it to a functioning wetland and/or wildlife habitat.

INDUSTRY HISTORY AND BACKGROUND

Peat bogs are thousands of years old. The Canadian peat industry, by contrast, is young - about 60 years old. Its three oldest bogs were opened in the late 1930s and early 1940s; most of the current producers started operations since 1960.

Here are some important points to remember about horticultural peat in Canada.

There are approximately 279 million acres* of peatlands in Canada. Since settlement of Canada, peatlands have been utilized in the following manner:

Reservoirs 2.9 million acres
Development 2.2 million acres
Ports 1.8 million acres
Forestry 62,000 acres
Peat harvesting 40,000 acres

Horticultural peat harvesting takes place on less than 0.02 percent of peatlands in Canada.
Each year there are approximately 1.2 million metric tonnes* of peat moss removed for horticultural use. During the same time, an estimated 70 million tonnes* of peat accumulates across Canada: Nearly 60 times* as much peat accumulating as is being used.

Because peat moss is harvested at such a slow rate, in the 60 odd years since the industry began, less than 5,000 acres of peatland are ready for restoration. The remainder of the acreage is still being actively harvested.

Peat moss used in horticulture is not being destroyed; rather it is being harvested in a part of the world that has a surplus, and added to the soil in a part of the world that is in short supply of organic matter.

RECLAMATION PROJECTS
Three types of restoration/reclamation procedures are recommended by the CSPMA in Canada.

Return to a functioning peatland
The prime objective of Canadian peat producers is to return a harvested bog to a functioning wetland through the restoration process developed by Laval University. The steps to restoration are outlined in the manual, Peatland Restoration Guide.

Cultivate for agricultural use
General agriculture, cranberry cultivation and experimental crops are being cultivated on bogs from which most of the horticultural grade peat moss has been removed.

Cultivate for forestry use
In Atlantic and western Canada, experiments to grow trees on cut-over bogs have been underway for several years. Forestation of peat bogs has been used successfully in several European countries and may become a common restoration alternative in Canada.

This information is provided by The Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association (CSPMA)

For additional information, visit their website at: www.peatmoss.com