Moor restoration in the Peak District

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In the Peak District the National Park authority is playing a vital role in combatting climate change - by restoring, protecting and replenishing the area's peat bogs.

The latest iniative in the Moors For The Future project (see below) is 'Community Science' - where volunteers discover more about their local moors and find out why caring for them can be fun, as well as important in combatting climate change.

Tell us more about the project

  • The first phase benefits from £164,000 Heritage Lottery Funding with an additional £16,000 from partners, and runs from December 2012 to June 2014.
  • We will establish a monitoring framework throughout the region, supporting existing science programmes.
  • This ensures that all data collected is compatible and increases the accumulated knowledge.
  • It will also provide indicators of the health and change of the uplands and valuable input into conservation management initiatives.

Why is it being introduced?

The Community Science project has been set up to involve communities in the Peak District and South Pennines in long-term moorland scientific research.

The project aims to enable people to engage with their environment and will give local people a stake in securing the future heritage of their Peak District moorland.

Want to find out more?

Check out the page about Community Science on the Moors For The Future website

So what's the connection between peat bogs and climate change?

The answer to this question lies in the fact that peat bogs - the ones being restored in the Peak District are known as blanket bogs - act like gigantic sponges. The layers of peat can absorb both rainwater (stopping river run-off and flooding problems) and carbon (they're a valuable 'carbon store').

Peat is the biggest store of carbon in the UK and is capable of holding the equivalent of 20 years worth of the whole UK's carbon emissions.

So work going on in the Peak District benefits people both locally and nationally.

What is Moors For The Future?

Moors For The Future

One third of the England's blanket bogs can be found in the Peak District. The Moors For The Future project to restore and conserve these was established in 2003, supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The scheme has gone on to develop into a broad-ranging partnership with the National Trust, Natural England, United Utilities, Severn Trent Water, Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water, Derbyshire County Council and the RSPB.

Its aim is to repair damage from erosion and pollution across the Peak District National Park by 'stabilising' the peat bogs - stopping erosion it its tracks - before gradually restoring the vegetation that used to live there.

The erosion has been caused by decades of pollution from Manchester, Sheffield and surrounding urban areas which has fallen as acid rain on the Peak District moors. The moorlands have also suffered from high levels of sheep grazing and from damaging fires (deliberate and accidental).

The work so far...

The Moors for the Future Partnership has undertaken restoration work on a range of moorland sites in the Peak District and South Pennines including at Kinder Scout and Black Hill.

It has:

  • Laid more than 100 miles (1.2m wide) of biodegradable netting to help stop erosion of the peat
  • Spread 8 billion grass and heather seeds on the equivalent of 1,200 football pitches
  • Airlifted 1,500 tonnes of heather brash (cut heather) onto the moors to help stabilise the peat and provide a seed source
  • Planted 135,000 dwarf shrub 'plug' plants on the moors, with the assistance of volunteers
  • More than 15,000 of these plants have been grown by volunteers
  • In 2009 alone 6,270 trees were planted

'Moor' on peat bogs and climate change

The Moorlife project

In April 2010 the Moors for the Future Partnership won EU funding for its £5.7 million MoorLIFE project. The aim is to restore the blanket bog in the South Pennines Moors area of the Peak District National Park over the next five years by:

  1. stabilising areas of bare peat
  2. restoring moorland vegetation on these and other previously stabilised sites
  3. turning these areas back into 'active' blanket bog forming landscapes
  4. reducing peat and water flow through gully blocking

How will they do it?

Phase one involves establishing plants (a 'nurse crop') on bare peat to stop what vegetation there is being washed away. Netting and cut heather can help in this process, providing cover and good conditions for plants to form. Lime and fertiliser are also applied.

Next, in the second phase, gullies in the landscape which transport water away from the peat bogs need to blocked up. This will be done using a combination of peat turf and timber as dams.

Third comes the planting phase - from around year two to the end of the project's lifespan. Planting plug plants of five species (Eriophorum vaginatum, E. angustifolium, Rubus chamaemorus, Vaccinium myrtillus and Empetrum nigrum) will be done at a rate of 4,000 plants per hectare.

'Hydro-seeding' will be done with other species, including Calluna vulgaris, Erica tetralix, Erica cinerea and Vaccinium myrtillus. This involves a helicopter dropping cleaned seed at a rate of approximately 650g/ha on sites which already have developing vegetation cover.

Later, around the third year of the project, Sphagnum plants typical of blanket bogs will be propagated and in vegetated areas. This will probably dropped in by helicopter too.

Did you know?

  1. Peat moorlands cover less than 3% of the land surface of the Earth yet they contain twice as much carbon as the world’s forests
  2. Peat is the single biggest store of carbon in the UK, storing the equivalent of 20 years of all UK CO2 emissions and keeping it out of the atmosphere
  3. Three billion tonnes of carbon are stored in UK peat - more than in the forests of Britain and France combined
  4. Around 20 million tonnes of this carbon is stored in the Peak District
  5. If we keep our peat moorlands healthy they can help us to combat climate change and its effects