In these ecosystems are found one third of the world’s soil carbon and 10% of global freshwater resources.
These ecosystems are characterized by the unique ability to accumulate and store dead organic matter from Sphagnum and many other non-moss species, as peat, under conditions of almost permanent water saturation.
Landscapes covered in peat are home to specific kinds of plants including Sphagnum moss, ericaceous shrubs, and sedges (see bog for more information on this aspect of peat).
Because organic matter accumulates over thousands of years, peat deposits provide records of past vegetation and climate by preserving plant remains, such as pollen.
It remains harvested on an industrial scale for this purpose in countries such as Ireland and Finland.Peat deposits are found in many places around the world, including northern Europe and North America.The North American peat deposits are principally found in Canada and the Northern United States.Some of the world's largest peatlands include the West Siberian Lowland, the Hudson Bay Lowlands, and the Mackenzie River Valley.There is less peat in the Southern Hemisphere, in part because there is less land.This allows humans to reconstruct past environments and study changes in human land use.