Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

Other reports in this collection Food and Fiber Production

Wild berries growing on peatlands are an important natural resource in many regions of the boreal zone (Reier, 1982; Yudina et al., 1986; Salo, 1996). In Finnish peatlands alone, the annual biological yield of wild berries may exceed 150 million kg, of which approximately 10% is picked, with a value of US$13.5 million (Salo, 1996). In North America, cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) is commercially cultivated in peatlands (Johnson, 1985). The use of peatlands for agriculture has a long history; presently, 10,000 km2 are under this land use (Immirzi et al., 1992).

The importance of wetlands in North America as waterfowl habitat has long been recognized (Mitch and Gosselink, 1993). The commercial value of these wetlands is not direct; it comes through the added value of the activities of hunters in local economies. Although there are few estimates of this service, much of the wetland conservation effort in North America has focused on conservation, enhancement, and creation of habitat.

Products from tropical forested wetlands include rattans, resins, latex, fungi, fruit, honey, and medicinal plants, sale of which provides revenue for local communities. Exploitation of fish from swamp forests and associated waterways also can supply a modest income and is an important source of protein for local human populations (Immirzi et al., 1996; Lee and Chai, 1996).

Forested wetlands are valuable for wood production, mostly as a result of wetland modification. For example, in Finland, these wetlands produce about 18 million m3 of timber annually—nearly 25% of the total annual increment (Tomppo, 1998). Forested wetlands in the southern United States produce 39 million m3 of timber, of which 33 million m3 are removed annually (Shepard et al., 1998).

Direct harvest of forest resources from tropical peatlands yields several important products, ranging from timber and bark to non-timber products (Immirzi et al., 1996; Lee and Chai, 1996). Southeast Asia's peat swamps yield some of the most valuable tropical timbers—in particular, ramin (Gonystylus bancanus) (Ibrahim, 1996).

Peat has been used as a domestic energy source in northwestern and central Europe for centuries (Feehan and O'Donovan, 1996). The present volume of industrial peat harvesting is estimated at 71 million m3, most of it in Finland and Ireland (Asplund, 1996). The peatland area occupied by peat harvesting is rather small in comparison to the area of land uses such as agriculture and forestry; for example, in Finland 24 million m3 of energy peat are harvested from an area of 530 km2. Employment aspects may be important in peat harvesting because most peat sites are located in remote areas where few industrial jobs are available. Peat harvesting may offer an estimated 550 permanent/seasonal jobs for each 1 million m3 of produced peat (Nyrönen, 1996). Canada has a small but prosperous peat harvesting industry for horticulture and medical uses (Rubec et al., 1988; Keys, 1992). Between 1986 and 1990, Canadian shipments were 662,000-812,000 t yr-1 (Keys, 1992).

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