The link between peat and fish

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An interesting project is taking place at Dryhope Farm on the Philiphaugh Estate in the Scottish Borders; linking upland peatland restoration with the salmon fishing on the River Tweed, from catchment to catching fish!

The blanket bog at Dryhope retains, releases and filters the water that flows down the Kirkstead burn into St Mary’s Loch and from there into the Yarrow Water – a tributary of the Tweed.

Damaged, bare peat (a result of historic sheep management on the bog) and drainage channels were reducing the capacity of the peatland to stay wet and regulate the water flow. Restoring the ‘sponge’ effect in the top of the catchment can help to reduce flash flooding events in the lower catchment which (particularly in the winter months) can mobilise gravels to such an extent that fish ova are swept away and become unviable.

In addition, increasing the water storage capacity of the uplands will reduce incidents of rivers drying up during periods of drought, increasing resilience of fish populations.

Philiphaugh Estate recognised the need for restoration of the site at Dryhope, to bring about wider benefits within the Tweed catchment. The Estate worked with Tweed Forum, a leading local charity dedicated enhancement of the river and its environs, to come up with a programme of works and also help source funding.

The Kirkstead burn is one of many vital spawning burns for trout and salmon in the upper Tweed (and in particular the rare spring salmon component). As Salmon fishing contributes £24m per year to the local economy and supports over 500 jobs, keeping the river and its tributaries in a healthy condition is important to businesses and the local community.

Peatland Action and Forest Carbon supported the ‘reprofiling’ of these areas of bare peat (known as hags) and SRDP funding allowed for the blocking of a network of drainage ditches. This is also the first project ever to be part funded by corporate social responsibility through the Peatland Code.

This work at Dryhope will not only improve water flow regulation in the Tweed Catchment but will also increase carbon storage (by ‘locking’ the carbon rich peatland soil under a layer of vegetation), improve water quality and create better habitats for upland wildlife, such as Black grouse and Hen harriers.

This work builds on other complimentary habitat restoration work carried out at Dryhope over the last 20 years, including 70ha of native riparian tree planting, which will provide shade for upland streams, vital due to the threats brought by climate change.

The Peatland Action Project was set up to offer advice and funding to restore peatlands all across Scotland. Since 2012, it has helped almost 15,000 hectares on the road to recovery. For more information and to arrange a meeting with your local Project Officer please contact PeatlandAction@nature.scot