Precious Peatlands

Dr Rebelo’s talk at WCC focused on what happened to our local peatland in the Onrus River. In 2019 a peat fire burned underground in the Onrus wetland for five months. How could a wetland burn? The reason was quite simply that it was no longer wet. A veld fire in the tinder-dry vegetation, was whipped into a fury by a gale-force wind. Climate change at its worst!

Further disaster was to come. Climate change does not only bring drought and heat. The earth’s atmosphere warms up, thus increasing the energy in the system and leading in turn to increased winds, storms and torrential rain. In September 2023 the already dry and degraded peat could not fulfil its crucial ecological function of flood mitigation. A large portion of the peatland washed down the Onrus River and ended up on Onrus beach.

At the conclusion of her talk Dr Rebelo outlined some of the interventions that could be used to restore the Onrus peatland. Unfortunately it takes thousands of years for peat to form. So the best we can hope for in our lifetime is protection of the remaining peatland upstream of the portion that was lost.