National Geographic | April 2017
In the far north of Scotland, an unusual conservation project is underway: the systematic removal of millions of trees. While tearing down forests is generally a bad thing, at the RSPB Forsinard Flows Nature Reserve it is essential to restoring one of the most important ecosystems on the planet. Peatland blanket bogs have been absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere for thousands of years. In this one area of Scotland, the peatlands store an estimated 400 million tons of CO2—which is more than double the amount of CO2 stored in all of the United Kingdom’s forests put together. But in the 1980s, tree plantations began buying up the peatlands in order to grow timber. They planted millions of trees and drained the peatlands of water, causing the peat to break apart and release CO2 back into the atmosphere. It’s estimated that losing just 4 percent of the CO2 that is stored in this peatland would equal Scotland’s combined household and industrial carbon emissions.