Research is viewed as the key to the sustainable management of peat resources. Since 1992, the Canadian peat industry has invested significant financial and human resources in improving the knowledge base of peatlands through partnerships with the scientific community.
The Peatland Ecology Research Group (PERG)
PERG was formed through the partnership of five Canadian universities, the Canadian peat moss industry and federal and provincial government agencies. The multidisciplinary approach combines fundamental and applied research in peatland ecology and management.
The research program undertaken by the PERG over the last 20 years has been influential in making Canada a world leader in wise use and management of peat resources. The results of the research have led to the development of basic techniques for the restoration of harvested peatlands.
The program is currently funded through the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Peatland Management and the Collaborative Research and Development Grant. PERG investigates questions that arise directly from the industry on matters such as biodiversity, water and carbon exchanges in peatlands.
The third term of the research program (2013-2018) covers the following topics:
- Land-use management
- Evaluating the restoration success
- Assessment of hydrological functions
- Carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas exchanges
Key findings concerning peatland restoration
- Sphagnum moss coverage can be re-established within a three to five years;
- the growth rate of Sphagnum moss on the restored site is comparable to or higher than that of natural peatlands;
- the ability of restored sites to capture carbon can return to levels equivalent to natural peatlands after a period of 10 to 15 years following restoration.
Sphagnum cultivation: a promising line of research
The PERG and the peat industry are also carrying out research on the cultivation of Sphagnum mosses, which consists in the renewable production of non-decomposed Sphagnum fiber biomass on a cyclic basis. The objectives of Sphagnum moss production are multiple:
- to develop new growing media;
- to produce floral moss; and
- to supply a source of Sphagnum to be used in peatland restoration.