Last winter a partnership project between Rosebery Estate, Tweed Forum, Peatland ACTION/Scottish Natural Heritage & Butterfly Conservation Scotland was carried out, with the view to restoring three lowland raised bog sites on Rosebery Estate in Midlothian. Among these sites was Peeswit Moss, a designated site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC), which had been assessed by Scottish Natural Heritage as being in ‘unfavourable condition’.
The three bogs had historically been drained for agricultural use, which had caused them to dry out, allowing scrub to encroach and areas of peat soil erosion to occur. Peat depth surveys carried out by Tweed Forum staff confirmed that the sites contained deep peat well over 7 m in places. Peat accumulates at about 1 mm per year, so these bogs have been forming over a long period of time.
Functioning peat bogs provide a wide range of benefits including carbon capture and storage, water regulation, improving water quality and providing homes for specialist wildlife. Degraded bogs don’t provide these services and also become a net source of atmospheric carbon if active drainage and erosion of peat soils persist.
Recognising the importance of these three sites, Rosebery Estate applied for a Peatland ACTION grant in order to carry out the following restoration work:
Starting in January2019, Barker & Bland, a specialist peatland restoration contractor based in Cumbria, began blocking and re-profiling around 25,000 m of drainage ditches, using a mixture of peat dams and wooden composite dams.
An additional 200 m of bare eroding peat banks were re-profiled and re-vegetated using donor turves from the site, to reconnect the exposed peat hags with active peat-forming vegetation. An area of tall heather was also cut using specialist low ground pressure machinery. This should give other bog species, including sphagnum mosses, more of a chance to establish.
A volunteer task force called ‘The Bog Squad’, run by Butterfly Conservation Scotland, put in a day’s hard graft at Peeswit Moss SSSI, removing encroaching trees and scrub from the bog surface using hand tools. Combined with ditch-blocking efforts this will help restore the natural water table and promote the growth of important peat-forming Sphagnum mosses across the site.
The project was successfully completed in early March, with positive signs already showing, including small pools beginning to form behind the newly installed peat dams.
Peeswit Moss is currently managed for red grouse. The wetter conditions created by blocking ditches should attract a greater diversity and abundance of insects which will benefit red grouse chick feeding opportunities as well as providing habitat for wading bird species like curlew and snipe. Light summer grazing by cattle will continue at Peeswit Moss as will a phased programme of heather swiping, both of which will be implemented under a current Agri-Enivornment Climate Scheme contract for the wider Estate.