IPS/IMCG Terminology Group Recommendations

The Peat and Peatland Terminology Group formed by IPS and the International Mire Conservation Group has submitted the minutes of its first meeting, held in Tullamore on 8 June 2008, to the IPS Secretariat.

The Group would like to announce its agreements to the IPS members and asks all peat experts to consider the following in their scientific writing and correspondence:

Background information

Unmistakable and clear definitions of terms facilitate communication and decisions. In our world of peat and peatlands this is as true as in any other section of science, business or daily life.

Overbeck (1975) reminds us that “every international approach in peatland science and policy is complicated by the multitude of terms, the inconsistencies in their definition, and the different concepts behind similar terms in different languages”. Quoting Hofstetter (2000), who wrote that “communication problems arise out of confusion about or disagreement on connections between terms and concepts”, mirrors the complexity that discussions on terms may have.

Following the IPS/IMCG meeting in Sweden in 2007 a group was appointed to develop definitions of peat and peatland related terms or concepts with policy implications that have caused misunderstandings. The group – together with other warmly welcomed attendees – met in Tullamore for the first time to discuss the best way forward.


In general it should be noted that it is not necessary to have a single term for every possible concept. At times it is best to use descriptive phrases instead. Particularly when the use of a single term leads to misunderstanding or conflict over definitions, it is better to avoid the term altogether and revert to stating what you mean in a simple descriptive phrase.
1. terms and definitions should follow common use of words outside our own specialised world as found in general English dictionaries;
2. terms and definitions should follow etymological logic;
3. terms and definitions should be consistent when used in composites;
4. as far as possible follow the term definition of expert groups or learned societies (e.g. restoration from SERi; wetlands from RAMSAR, sustainable from UN).


With these rules we should arrive at:
1. terms with their preferred definitions – these sets of terms/definitions will be binding for both IMCG and IPS; these terms may ONLY be used with this meaning;
2. terms with objectionable definitions – these terms should not be used to denote these definitions; these terms may NOT be used with this meaning;
3. objectionable terms – terms that are aberrant, illogical or inconsistent; these terms may NOT be used at all (for example change the wording of virgin peatland);
4. maybe to produce a Primer;
5. apply the agreed terminology to the edition of Mires & Peat and Peatland International to promote their proper use;
6. if the two societies do not agree on some terms – then the two definitions should be explained and diffused.

Groups of terms

During the meeting, the working group agreed to first work on the following 7 groups of terms:
1. Mire, peatland and peat.
2. Identify the preferred adjectives: pristine, virgin, natural or intact to use in front of the word peatland.
3. Sustainable peatland management / sustainable use of peat / sustainable use of peatland.
4. Peat extraction, peat harvesting, peat mining, peat production and peat winning.
5. Peat biomass, Sphagnum biomass, biofuel, fossil.
6. Restoration of peatlands / reclamation of peatlands / regeneration of peatlands / rehabilitation of peatlands / renewability of peat / rewetting of peatlands.
7. Define the following adjectives: abandoned, exploited, mined, residual, cutaway, cutover, extracted, and harvested placed in front of the word peatland.