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The impact of our work on nitrogen and peat

We’re working in partnership to tackle the threats which nitrogen pollution and peat sales pose to wild plants and fungi.

Landscape image of water rippling against the peatland on a cold overcast day

Our campaigns to end peat extraction for horticulture and reduce the devasting impact of nitrogen pollution made significant progress during the year.  

Working closely with partners, we spearheaded several initiatives designed to improve air quality. Elsewhere, our drive to keep peat in the ground and out of people’s gardens has also continued.  

Here are some of the highlights from a successful 12 months.   


Fighting for cleaner air

Our campaign to protect wild plants and fungi from excess nitrogen in the air gathered pace during 2022/23. Much of our focus has been on encouraging government action on air quality. At the same time, we have also raised awareness of the impact which excess nitrogen has on nature and people.  

And this work has never been more essential. Many wildflowers, lichen and fungi are slowly disappearing because of pollution, with nitrogen-loving grasses and nettles taking their place. As a result, peatbogs and wildflower meadows are changing forever as their biodiversity – and the species they can support – decreases. 

June’s Clean Air Day provided an important platform from which to spread the word about airborne nitrogen pollution. And the results of an opinion poll showed this campaign is having an effect, with 25% more people now aware of the devastating impact emissions have on plants, fungi and health compared with the previous year. 

Our advocacy on a national scale also gathered pace, as did our calls for governments to reduce pollution at source. The urgent need for change was reinforced when new data showed the UK had missed its target to reduce ammonia emissions by 8% by 2020. As a result, we have written to the Secretary of State to call for urgent action on air pollution from farming, which is the main cause of ammonia emissions. 

Plantlife also helped to set up the Nitrogen Collaboration, which will take a holistic approach to nitrogen pollution. The partnership brings together Client Earth, Soil Association, Woodland Trust and WWF UK, and aims to secure action from the UK Government. We hope that it will develop further during 2023/24 by leading calls for a joined-up approach to improving air quality which will benefit both nature and public health.  

Keeping peat in the ground

Working alongside partners, we have also ramped up our campaign to end peat extraction for gardening and horticulture. Again, this work remains vital as this unsustainable practice has continued to devastate important peatlands in Britain and Ireland. As well as impacting biodiversity, it is also having a knock-on effect on carbon stores, flood risk and water quality. 

We were delighted to secure the future of our campaign with a significant grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. This came following strategy development work with a wide range of partners. The funding will enable us to recruit a dedicated team whose aim will be ending peat sales across the UK.

Hosted by Plantlife on behalf of our wider partnership, it will work directly with governments and the horticulture sector to bring in legislation and support the transition to peat-free horticulture. 

Elsewhere, we have continued to advocate for a legal ban on peat sales across two countries. This has seen us respond to a Scottish Government consultation as well as discussing future legislation with officials in the UK.  

By working jointly with the horticultural industry, we have also supported the roll out of a ‘responsible sourcing’ labelling scheme. This significant step will help consumers understand the environmental and societal impacts of buying compost, in turn helping them to make more sustainable and informed choices to support nature. 

More ‘Work in Partnerships’ Projects

Nature recovery from the bottom up
Yellow rattle in a meadow

Nature recovery from the bottom up

We’re using the introduction of Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) to advocate for wild plants and fungi and their protection.

Saving Wales’ threatened species
Two people with looking at a plant with the mountain in the back drop

Saving Wales’ threatened species

Our exciting plans for Natur am Byth, Wales’ flagship green recovery project, were fully developed during 2022/23, paving the way for the initiative to begin in earnest in summer 2023. 

Ending one project and starting a new chapter
A landscape shot of a temperate rainforest with ferns, mosses, lichens covering every surface

Ending one project and starting a new chapter

Our 4-year Building Resilience project came to an end in January 2023 after successfully shining a light on the south west’s temperate rainforest and the lichen, moss and liverwort communities it supports.