Prescribed Fire in UK Heather-Dominated Blanket Bog Peatlands: A Critical Review of “Carbon Storage and Sequestration by Habitat: A Review of the Evidence (Second Edition)” by Gregg et al., 2021

Andreas Heinemeyer, Mark Ashby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Peatlands are a vast global carbon store. Both climate change and management have shaped peatlands over millennia, sometimes negatively, sometimes positively. Across the globe, pre-scribed fire is an important and well-recognised vegetation management tool used to promote biodiversity, increase habitat heterogeneity and mitigate uncontrolled wildfires. However, in the UK, there is an ongoing debate about the efficacy and legitimacy of using prescribed fire as a vegetation management tool. The debate centres around the extent to which prescribed burning is associated with a decline in habitat status and ecological function, especially in relation to carbon storage within heather-dominated blanket bog peatlands. Robust reviews of the evidence base are thus required to disentangle this debate and inform land management policies that ensure the protection and enhancement of blanket bog ecological functioning. Here, we critically review “Carbon storage and sequestration by habitat: a review of the evidence (second edition)” by Gregg et al., 2021. We see the value in synthesising the evidence on this topic but question the method-ological approach used by Gregg et al. Another concern is their misrepresentation of evidence relating to prescribed burning impacts on blanket bog ecosystems and carbon budgets. We highlight these issues by focusing on the relevant peatland sections within the review by Gregg et al. and conclude by making a series of recommendations to improve the review’s scientific ro-bustness and, thereby, its value to academics, land managers and policymakers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number204
Number of pages15
Issue number204
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2023

Bibliographical note

This is a paper in form of a review of a report by Natural England
© 2023 by the authors.


  • carbon storage
  • carbon sequestration
  • blanket bog
  • evidence-based policy
  • net ecosystem carbon balance
  • peatlands;
  • prescribed fire
  • vegetation burning
  • upland land management

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