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Peat is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetable matter. Peat forms in wetlands called peatlands, examples of which are bogs, moors, muskegs, mires, and fens. Peat deposits are the first stage in formation of coal deposits.

Characteristics and uses

Peat is soft and easily compressed. Under pressure, water in the peat is forced out. Upon drying, peat can be used as a fuel, and is traditionally used for cooking and domestic heating in many countries including Ireland and Scotland, where stacks of drying peat dug from the bogs can still be seen in some rural areas. Peat is also dug into soil to increase the latter's capacity to retain moisture and add nutrients. Peat fires are used to dry malted barley for use in Scotch whisky distillation. This gives Scotch its distinctive smoky flavor, often referred to as "peatiness" by Scotch afficianados.

Dry peat beds can be a fire hazard. Peat deposits on the landscape pose a difficulty to builders of roads.

See also: peat moss

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