Peat and peat bogs

Peat is one of the largest natural wealth in Latvia.

The richest peat bogs are located in Baltic region, particularly in Latvia. The total area of the bog is 6401 km2 or 9.9% of the country’s territory.

Here you can find map of all peat bogs in country.  (blue circles with names of bogs)

Peat extracted in Latvia is used worldwide – 95% of Latvian peat is exported and last year export amounted to 176 million euros.
• In general, bogs cover 10% of the country’s territory. Peat extraction from all Latvian mires is only 4% and due to favorable climatic conditions in Latvia annual natural growth of peat significantly exceeds the extraction volumes.
• There are 63 peat extraction and processing companies operating in Latvia.

How much peat is there in Latvia?

In total, Latvia’s peat deposits contain 1.5 billion tons of peat. In the marshes where peat extraction is taking place as of January 1, 2020, the amount of peat was 145.5 million tons.

Total peat resources are not precisely determined, but they could be about 11.3 billion m3 or 1.7 billion tons. Most of this resource is not usable – they are covered by valuable forest stands, they are located under the agricultural land and also in protected areas. Most peat reserves are concentrated in the eastern and central parts of Latvia. From the total area of bogs, 49.3% are low bogs, 41.7% are high and 9% – transitional bogs. 69.7% of all marshes are intact, 15% are drained and used in agriculture, 8.4% are covered with drained forest stands, only 3.9% are used for peat extraction. Approximately one-seventh of the area of untouched mires (75 thousand ha) is protected and designated as reserves and barriers.

Peat formation

Peat is formed in the process of natural decay.

It is an incomplete decomposition of bog plants, under over current moisture and incomplete supply of oxygen. High bog peat is made up of herbaceous plants, mainly of different mosses. Approximately 95% of moss’s peat volume and pores. The tiny pores are filled with water, but rough – the air, so the peat roots provide ideal water and air treatment. The age of the peat deposits is 6-12 thousand years, and it turns out that 1 mm of the current peat layer was formed during the year. Peat is formed under anaerobic conditions and is sterile. It is sour, with a low content of nutrients, therefore, adding turbid lime material and composting with organic manure, it is a high-quality material for the formation of humus in the soil.

What is a swamp and a peat deposit?

In order to be called a peat deposit, the peat layer must be at least 30 cm thick at least 2 ha, but more than (or equal to) 1 ha within the depth of industrial use (0.9 m) and the average depth of peat must be greater than (or equal) 1 m, and it is irrelevant whether the peat deposit contains forest or bog habitats. 9600 peat deposits have been identified in Latvia. Of these, 5,100 are larger than 10 ha and more than 1,100 are larger than 100 ha. More than 500 deposits could be used for industrial peat extraction.

From the biological point of view, the thickness of the peat layer does not matter to name the place as a bog, the most important is whether the site is dominated by bog vegetation.

Latvia – major peat extraction country 

Depending on the amount of precipitation and the number of sunny days, the amount of peat extraction varies during the season. In Latvia, peat is mainly produced for horticultural purposes, and to a very small extent for activated carbon production and other purposes. Mostly peat is used as a substrate. Peat in the Baltic States is in demand worldwide and is used for growing vegetables, herbs, flowers, tree plants and for landscaping. Latvia produces about one third of the peat used in professional gardening in Europe.