A new practice guide for managing deep peatland which is already planted with trees has been published by Forestry Commission Scotland. Deep peat is soil with a peat layer greater than 50cm. For the full guide go to 'Deciding future management options for afforested deep peatland' (PDF).
Five years in the making, the guide explains how timber, greenhouse gas, biodiversity, landscape and water quality interests can be balanced in these complex and vulnerable habitats.
Normally when trees are felled there is a presumption in favour of restocking. However, this approach is not necessarily appropriate for deep peat sites because the greenhouse gas and wider environmental implications of future management are more significant than on other sites.
Therefore this guide takes forest managers through the process of assessing a site’s potential for restocking, restoration, or creating a new woodland type called peatland edge woodland, so that the best future for the site is clear.
The guide therefore aims to ensure that foresters follow the required process when seeking a felling licence or forest plan approval for afforested deep peat.
Dr Julia Garritt, who authored the practice guide , said;
“The Scottish Government’s ambitious climate change programme recognises that peatlands and forests are key elements in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
“Fast-growing woodland and undamaged or well-restored peatland can act as a carbon sink, but if peatlands altered by tree planting are not managed appropriately then they can release greenhouse gases.
“We are looking to secure the best future for this type of peatland site and ensure that they are managed in ways that will help the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also balance the timber production, biodiversity, landscape and environmental protection interests.”
As well as informing forestry practice, this guide will help implement the new National Peatland Plan for Scotland. The guidance will also be reviewed as the carbon science of peatland sites further develops.
The practice guide, along with previously published peatland guidance is available on the peatland habitats page.