Sphagnum peatlands are threatened by overharvesting, conversion to agricultural land, hydrological changes from aquifers altered by irrigation or overuse, and damage from forest harvesting. Sphagnum is often considered a renewable resource that can be “harvested,” as raking after partial harvest can encourage regeneration. However, much peat harvesting, especially that for peat used as fuel, is actually mining—characterized by a complete removal of all peat layers. Sphagnum regenerates slowly, with its peat accumulating at 10 to 40 cm (4 to 13 in) per thousand years, so it cannot be harvested again in a lifetime. In some countries, overharvesting threatens Sphagnum peatlands—Finland, for example, is estimated to have lost 60% of its Sphagnum peatlands. In addition, some studies suggest that Sphagnum is particularly sensitive to damage from air pollution.
(Anderson et al. 2009, Crandall-Stotler and Bartholomew-Began 2007, Crum 1988, Crum and Anderson 1981, Glime 2007, McQueen and Andrus 2007.)
- Anderson, L.E., A.J. Shaw, and B. Shaw. 2009. Peat Mosses of the Southeastern United States. New York: New York Botanical Garden Press. 111 p.
- Crandall-Stotler, B.J., and S.E. Bartholomew-Began. 2007. Morphology of Mosses (Phylum Bryophyta). In Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. Flora of North America north of Mexico 27: 3–13. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Crum, H. A. 1988. A Focus on Peatlands and Peat Mosses. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 306 p.
- Crum, H.S., and L.E. Anderson. 1981. Mosses of Eastern North America. Vol 1. New York: Columbia University Press.
- Glime, J.M. 2007. Economic and Ethnic Uses of Bryophtyes. In Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. Flora of North America north of Mexico 27: 14–41. New York: Oxford University Press.
- McQueen, C.B., and R.E. Andrus. 2007. 2. Sphagnaceae Dumortier. In Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. Flora of North America north of Mexico 27: 45–101. New York: Oxford University Press.