Action: Manage fertilizer or herbicide application near peatlands
Key messagesRead our guidance on Key messages before continuing
- We found no studies that evaluated the effects, on peatland vegetation, of managing fertilizer or herbicide use in adjacent areas.
‘We found no studies’ means that we have not yet found any studies that have directly evaluated this action during our systematic journal and report searches. Therefore we have been unable to assess whether or not the action is effective or has any harmful impacts. Please get in touch if you know of such a study for this action.
Fertilizers and herbicides can have negative effects on peatland vegetation if they spill over from agricultural or domestic land (Smolders et al. 2010). Herbicides can kill plants directly. Run off from fertilized land can carry excess nutrients (such as nitrogen and phosphorous) into peatlands, altering their naturally low nutrient levels.
Various techniques could be used to reduce spillover of these chemicals into peatlands (without reducing the overall amount applied, although this could also be beneficial). Applying fertilizers when plants are actively growing means a greater proportion of the nutrients are taken up by the plants. Avoiding chemical application before heavy rain reduces the amount that is immediately washed away. Ploughing or harrowing parallel to slopes avoids creating channels that carry chemicals off agricultural land towards peatlands (or other habitats). Planting cover crops could protect bare ground, and the chemicals applied to it, from rainfall and reduce the amount washed away. Ultimately, better chemical management could be driven by legislation, financial incentives and/or education.
Key peatland types for which this action may be appropriate: bogs, fens/fen meadows, tropical peat swamps.
Related action: reduce the overall amount of fertilizer or herbicide use near peatlands, without other management of its application.
Smolders A.J.P., Lucassen E.C.H.E.T., Bobbink R., Roelofs J.G.M. & Lamers L.P.M. (2010) How nitrate leaching from agricultural lands provokes phosphate eutrophication in groundwater fed wetlands: the sulphur bridge. Biogeochemistry, 98, 1–7.