Peatland Project

Homer Drawdown: Peatland Project is a community-wide collaboration to protect and restore peatlands. Peatlands are special wetlands that store a lot of carbon and play critical roles in our local ecosystems, cultures and economies. They also mitigate the threats of climate change by recharging our aquifers and reducing wildfires. We aim to illuminate the interconnectedness of peatlands to people and the climate, while honoring indigenous stewardship of the Kenai landscape by the Dena’ina and Sugpiaq cultures.

Our project and name derive from the brilliant Project Drawdown book and website.

Drawdown: Peatland Protection and Rewetting

"Peatlands, also known as bogs or mires, are neither solid ground nor water but something in between. Peat is a thick, mucky substance made up of dead and decomposing plant matter. It develops over hundreds, even thousands of years, as wetland vegetation slowly decays beneath a living layer of flora and in the near absence of oxygen.

Although these unique ecosystems cover just 3 percent of the earth’s land area, they are second only to oceans in the amount of carbon they store—twice that held by the world’s forests, at an estimated 500 to 600 gigatons.

Protecting them through land preservation and fire prevention is a prime opportunity to manage global greenhouse gases. Because peatlands’ typical carbon content is over 50 percent, they become powerful greenhouse chimneys if disrupted.

When peat is exposed to the air, the carbon it contains gets oxidized into carbon dioxide. It can take thousands of years to build up peat, but a matter of only a few to release its greenhouse cache once it is degraded.Luckily, 85 percent of the world’s peatlands are intact.

Though not as effective as halting degradation before it starts, restoring drained and damaged peatlands is an essential complement to protection."

–excerpted from the book, Drawdown




What is Peat?

Peat is dead plant material that has accumulated in standing water over thousands of years. Wet oxygen-poor environments prevent the plant material from decomposing into its basic building blocks of carbon dioxide and water. Peatlands act like a giant sponge to retain water and recharge groundwater throughout the summer. They also provide undisturbed habitat for moose, waterfowl and berry-pickers.

Depending on their formation and chemistry, peatlands can be classified as either bogs or fens. Most peatlands on the Kenai are classified as fens because they are nourished by mineral-rich groundwater from the surrounding soil and bedrock, unlike bogs which are nourished primarily by nutrient-poor rainfall. Fens are floristically rich with a variety of mosses, sedges, forbs and shrubs, whereas bogs are primarily Sphagnum peat moss with a few sedges.

Illustration by Conrad Field

Ancient Plants, Ancient Carbon

Some Alaskan peat has been building up for over 14,000 years and can be as much as 30 feet thick. Throughout that time, the plants have been pulling carbon from the atmosphere to use for growth through photosynthesis. But when the plants die, their carbon gets buried under water and does not return to the atmosphere. This means that peat is keeping carbon out of the atmosphere that might otherwise contribute to climate change.

When peatlands warm and dry, the peat breaks down (oxidizes) and releases carbon to the atmosphere as CO2 and accelerates climate warming in a positive feedback. For this reason, geologists are monitoring peatland degradation worldwide as an added source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Thankfully, the peatlands on the Kenai Peninsula are still mostly intact, although human development and warmer summers are posing an increasing risk of their loss and degradation.

In 2021, Homer Drawdown chose the Peatland Project in recognition that landscape change and land-use management issues are crucial to the mitigation of global warming.

Teen Peatland Expedition

The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies provides annual inclusive opportunities for teens to join an expedition-style four-day/three-night backpacking trip along one of Homer’s many watershed systems. These mini-expeditions conduct scientific research in local peatlands and identify the incredible plants and mosses that grow on their surface. Participants travel between wetlands and the beach where they look at the natural history and geology of Kachemak Bay. Participants have the opportunity to grow their leadership skills, backpacking experience, and dive deep into the ecology and history of peat—an often overlooked but vital part of Homer’s ecosystem! There will be teamwork, there will be exploration, there might be s’mores, there will be fun!

Community Science

Volunteer to help us map the depth of local peatlands.

Art for Peat

Arts-based activities and programs bring peatlands to the hearts and minds of all. View our gallery of peatland themed artwork.

Conservation and Management

Intact and functioning peatlands are not widely recognized as a resource commodity worth protecting, though they provide many direct benefits to the humans, ecosystems and aquifers of the Kenai Lowlands. We aim to harness the power of our public voice to protect our local peatlands through positive engagement with local landowners, managers and policy makers. Our fundraising efforts will go directly to the Stewardship Funds of the Kachemak Heritage Landtrust to ensure peatland protection in perpetuity.