Peat bog restoration project to expand

Another 3,000 hectares of Scotland's peatlands will begin the road to recovery this winter, Scotland's environment minister Aileen McLeod has announced.

Peat bales. Image: Pixabay
Peat bales. Image: Pixabay

The country's blanket bogs are one of the world's rarest habitats and a unique habitat for wildlife. Intact peatlands can also help to mitigate climate change by locking in carbon from the atmosphere.

More than 5,500 hectares are already in the process of being restored through Scottish Natural Heritage's (SNH) Peatland ACTION project.

Peatland ACTION has been trialling innovative methods of restoration. Some have an almost instantaneous result where the bare peat is reprofiled and turfed using the surrounding vegetation to stabilise the bare eroding peat. Other methods take many years to repair the damage caused by drainage.

Peatland ACTION supported projects run by the Cairngorms National Park, which won the ‘innovation’ class at the Nature of Scotland awards in November for work creating a ‘living carpet’.

The living carpet is a mix of bog moss and heather cuttings spread across the eroding bare peat. The living carpet protects the surface from the ravages of the weather and encourages plants to recolonize the more stable surface.

Now, an additional £3 million Scottish Government funding announced in June is enabling the restoration of another 3,000 hectares.

Speaking from the UN climate talks in Paris on World Soils Day, Dr McLeod said: "Almost a fifth of Scotland's land is covered with peat, the soil that supports our internationally important blanket bogs. As well as being a key habitat for much of our wildlife, they play an important role in carbon capture and storage, helping reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

"The importance of restoring peat-forming habitats which have been drained or damaged cannot be underestimated."

Eileen Stuart, SNH head of policy and advice, said the additional funding would be a "massive boost".

"This work is crucial to protect this important habitat which is home to many important animals and plants, as well as playing a vital role in reducing carbon emissions and help to regulate water flow.

"We had our first meeting of the National Peatlands Group this week and it is clear there is real enthusiasm to build on the work of Peatland ACTION and our partners and to lead the way on restoring Scotland's peatlands."

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