When record-breaking wildfires in western Russia killed 65 people, injured 1,068, destroyed 3,500 homes and caused billions in damages in 2010, it was no longer business-as-usual in Russia’s response to the impacts of climate change.
Not only did the Russian government begin investing more in traditional fire suppression, fire science and prevention strategies, it also began, with financial help and expertise from Germany, to restore peatlands that had been badly degraded by agricultural developments and the mining of peat to produce energy for household use and power plants. A fifth of Russia is covered in peat, mostly the northeastern side of the country.
Peat is partially decomposed plant material that builds up over centuries in cool swampy, waterlogged conditions such as bogs and fens and to a lesser extent swamps and marshes.
Representing just three per cent of the Earth’s landscape, peatlands like those in the Hudson Bay Lowlands can store five times more carbon than the Amazon rainforest. Collectively, they store twice as much carbon as all of the world’s forests.