Bog Day Blog

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23 Jul 2019

As it’s International Bog Day on Sunday 28 July this week’s blog showcases the work Peatland ACTION have been undertaking to restore the peatlands within Scotland’s oldest National Park.

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, host to Richard Cooper, Peatland ACTION Project Officer explains how an integrated land management approach and peatland restoration can work side-by-side for the benefit of each other.

Often the peatlands on an estate are seen as “dead ground” only being “productive” for stalking or to grow livestock or wood-stock.  These activities can lead to the erosion of peatlands, and if left unchecked can contribute to the depletion of this habitat, causing an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, and are not commercially sustainable.

By looking at the estate businesses as a whole through integrated land management plans, the value of healthy peatlands can be seen as a benefit not only to the estate but to the wider public.  By taking action to reverse the degradation of these habitats, estates can have a positive effect on other estate activities including herbivore and water management, and also provide a public benefit.

Auchlyne & Suie Estate: Integrated land management approach

The estate owner and the Park’s Land Management Team initially worked together to take a holistic view of the estate and identify project opportunities that could improve the financial and environmental sustainability of the business. Considerations included: farming domestic stock; forestry; sporting interests and diversification (including renewable energy through run-of-river hydro). 

There was an acknowledgement that peat was degrading on the holding.  This was partly due to previous government schemes supporting the construction of drains (grips) and historic over-grazing of livestock and deer. Having degrading peat has no long-term advantages, and is ultimately unsustainable.

In taking an overview of the estate and its management the team also looked at a full range of factors that influence peatland recovery. My role was to identify areas of peatland habitat that would benefit from restoration.

Innishewan Ford - What was done to restore the peat?

Innishewan Ford was one of the areas identified that would benefit from restoration. Here the main peat degradation was the ditches (grips) that had been cut into the peat 50 years previously. 

A number of restoration activities were deployed including: ditch blocking as illustrated here; and re-profiling and re-vegetating bare peat hags (see full story for details).

Ditch blocking: Blocking the ditches (grips) raises the water table, and prevents fast flow through which erodes the peat edges.  Overall this should slow the flow of water from the peat, reducing erosion and allowing sphagnum to grow across the site.

 

Grips at Innishewan Ford
Grips at Innishewan Ford before restoration activity
Innishewan Ford
The summer following restoration activity at Innishewan Ford 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benefits of restoration and the wider estate?

By looking at estate management in a holistic way a business can capitalise on its peatlands and restore them to provide sustainable benefits.  

For example ditch re-profiling and ditch blocking with peat dams alone can:

  • reduce the number of lambs and other animals lost down the drains where they are unable to escape and often not found (known as “black loss”); 
  • pools collect behind the peat dams providing a home for wildlife;
  • with more water retained within the peat the flow regime of any hydro scheme is smoothed, with reduced peak flow and longer flow in times of low rainfall

The use of Integrated Land Management Planning helps highlight the connectivity of different aspects of the estate.  By undertaking peatland restoration, the roles of grazing pressures, retained water, and landscape and wildlife enhancement within the estate business are better understood.  These benefits may take time to be realised in the estate finances but will ensure the business is environmentally on a more sustainable footing.
 

Read the story in full on the Peatland ACTION case study web page.

 

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