A critical review of the IUCN UK Peatland Programme’s “Burning and Peatlands” Position Statement

Mark Ashby, Andreas Heinemeyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite substantial contrary evidence, there has been a growing tendency to present prescribed vegetation burning as a management practice that is always damaging to peatland ecosystems in the UK. This is exemplified by the “Burning and Peatlands” position statement published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature UK Peatland Programme. Indeed, while we strongly agree with several of the statements made within this position statement, it also contains a series of unverified assertions and misleading arguments that seemingly serve to simplify the narrative and paint prescribed burning as a wholly damaging peatland management tool. Given that this position statement is published by one of the UK’s most prominent peatland conservation organisations, it is likely to be consulted when debating upland land use policy. Therefore, for the benefit of policymakers, we provide a point-by-point critical review of the “Burning and Peatlands” position statement. We also discuss several further points for researchers and policymakers to consider that are consistently ignored by those attempting to simplify the narrative about prescribed burning. Our aim in producing this discussion paper is to encourage the research and policy community to move towards an evidence-based position about prescribed burning impacts on UK peatlands.
Original languageEnglish
Article number56
Number of pages22
Issue number56
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2021

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