- Peat has been used in a variety of ways for hundreds of
years. Its use as a domestic fuel dates back at least to
Roman times. The U.S.S.R. introduced its first
peat-burning generating plant in 1914. Ireland generates
about one-third of its energy requirements from peat.
North America's first peat-fired powerplant started
operation in Maine in 1990 and produces 22.8 megawatts of
- Various crops are harvested from peatlands including
blueberries, cranberries, wood, grains, and hay.
Cranberries have a commercial value of over $600 million
annually in the U.S.
- Because of the absorbent properties of peat, it has been
used to diaper children, as surgical dressings, and
recently as an absorbent agent for use on oil spills.
Peat has been used as insulation in homes, blended to
make plywood, peat cork and peatcrete, and as a wood
preservative. Peat baths have been used as a treatment
for various injuries and medical conditions. Peatlands
have also been used to treat sewage wastes.
- Bronze and Iron Age artifacts are frequently found in
European peats including jewelry, clothing, weapons, and
musical instruments. European bogs have yielded over
2,000 well-preserved human bodies, most dating from 800
B.C. to A.D. 400. In Florida bogs, several hundred bodies
from the Archaic period were found and brain tissue and
associated DNA recovered.
- Peatlands appear in the writings of Tacitus, Shakespeare,
Linnaeus, and Emily Dickinson. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in
The Hound of the Baskervilles wrote, "Rank reeds and
lush, slimy water-plants sent an odour of decay...while a
false step plunged us more than once thigh deep into the
dark, quivering mire."
Reprinted from Iowa
Geology 1990, No. 15, Iowa Department of Natural