Peat accumulating wetlands are important components of the global carbon cycle, emitting methane (CH4 ) and carbon dioxide (CO2) and sequestering (CO2). These gasses are important in regulating the temperature in the atmosphere and have been attributed to increasing average global temperatures. The potential influence of peatlands on carbon cycling and 'greenhouse gasses' has been recognized for several decades.

Peatlands also impact water chemistry by contributing dissolved organic carbon (DOC) to waters that pass through them, commonly imparting a tea-like color to surface waters linked to these systems. These compounds can alter the solubility of other elements, such as iron and lead, increasing their concentrations in water and potentially creating reducing the quality of drinking water.

Peatlands have also been of interest to ecologists due to the unusual plants that have adapted to these inhospitable environment in these wetlands, the landforms that develop in response to the interaction between vegetation and hydrology, and the potential to identify ecological change by carefully analyzing the peat layers that can be thousands of years old.