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Thu, 07 Mar


This webinar is part of a series run by AFN

The peatland question - should we continue to cultivate and if so, how?

Peatlands are at once production power-houses, growing 30-40% of the UK’s veg & potatoes, but also huge carbon emitters. What should we do?

The peatland question - should we continue to cultivate and if so, how?
The peatland question - should we continue to cultivate and if so, how?

Time & Location

07 Mar 2024, 15:00 – 16:00

This webinar is part of a series run by AFN

About the event

Peatlands are incredible - globally they cover 3% of land area but  hold more than twice the carbon in all the world’s forests. But managing  them is a conundrum and a balancing act between short and long term  food security, biodiversity, climate, and livelihoods: Their carbon-rich  soils make them food-producing power-houses (accounting for 30-40% of  UK-grown potatoes and vegetables) but also significant carbon emitters  when drained and cultivated (1% of UK carbon emissions). Those who farm  peatlands are often acutely aware of this issue, but don’t know what to  do: Rewetting peatlands can lock this carbon back up and improve  biodiversity, but rewet them too much and they start to emit methane,  and of course displace food production elsewhere and potentially impact  livelihoods too. So, what should we do? Prof Heiko Balzter,  from the University of Leicester, will unravel this topic for us: Last  year, as part of his AFN Champion research, he convened 40 researchers  and peatland farmers in the East Anglian Fens, an area that accounts for  around 27% of England’s total peatland, and on which 4,000 farms and  80,000 livelihoods depend. Prof Balzter will present his main findings and possible ways forward.

Heiko will cover;

  • UK peatlands currently - their importance, services, and emissions
  • Key  trade-offs with peatland management, including; emissions, food  production/ security/ displacement, biodiversity, livelihoods
  • Farmer voices - the challenges peatland farmers face
  • Whether food production and emissions reductions is possible, and how
  • The potential of 80 new/ novel crops identified and their market development
  • Urgent research and policy needs

The webinar will be chaired by Jez Fredenburgh, Knowledge Exchange Fellow for the AFN Network+, and agri-food journalist. Jez is based at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia.

Please note that this webinar will be recorded.

About Heiko:

Prof Heiko Balzter is a professor of Physical Geography and Director of the Institute for Environmental Futures.  His research interests include carbon accounting, Earth observation and  remote sensing of land use and forests. He has received numerous awards  for his research, including the Royal Geographical Society’s Cuthbert  Peek Award ‘for advancing geographical knowledge of human impact through  earth observation’ (2015). He leads UKRI’s Landscape Decisions Programme and NERC’s National Centre for Earth Observation’s International Programme, and he was an AFN Network+ Champion 2022-2023.

About the webinar series:

This webinar is part of a series run by AFN Network+ which explores net zero in the UK agri-food system with leading movers  and shakers. Expect deep and varied insight from across the sector,  including farmers, scientists, policy analysts, community leaders,  retailers, politicians, businesses and health professionals.

The series is put together by Prof Neil Ward, co-lead of AFN Network+, and Jez Fredenburgh,  the network's knowledge exchange fellow and an agri-food journalist.  Both Neil and Jez are based at the Tyndall Centre at UEA. Follow Jez on Twitter/X and follow Neil on Twitter/X.

Watch past webinars here and listen to our podcast here. You can also follow AFN Network+ on Twitter/X and LinkedIn.

Join our growing network of 1,500+ people across  UK agri-food working on food system transformation, from academics to  farmers, food companies, NGOs, policy makers and citizens.

The AFN Network+ is funded by UKRI.

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