Restoring Scotland’s damaged peatlands

Sunday 23 July is International Bog Day 2017. It’s an opportunity to celebrate bogs across the World and the essential role they play in our lives. As Julia Quin explains, there is funding available to restore Scotland’s damaged peatlands through Peatland ACTION.


Covering just 3% of the earth’s land area, bogs are second only to oceans in the amount of carbon they store, which is still twice that held by the World’s forests! By protecting and restoring damaged bogs there are multiple benefits for people and nature, particularly in combating climate change.

This is why the Scottish Government has announced £8 million of funding to restore a further 8000 hectares of damaged peatlands in 2017/18. This is in addition to the 10,000 hectares that have started their road to recovery since the project began in 2012.

Peatland Action - COMMS - Images - 2017 - Peatland Pound 1 Andrew McBride

 ‘What can you get for the peatland pound?’ © Ewan Campbell

The funding is available through the Peatland ACTION project, administered by Scottish Natural Heritage; open to land owners, managers, farmers, crofters and individuals. We are accepting applications from now until the end of October.

Restoration techniques start, in a large proportion of cases, with the rewetting of peatland habitats through ditch blocking; as in the past, many peatlands were drained in order to make them more ‘productive’. However, with a greater understanding of the role bogs can play in carbon storage, upstream water storage, slowing river flows helping, in some cases, to alleviate downstream flooding, and supporting clean drinking water supplies and fisheries, there is so much more to be gained.

Peatland Action - COMMS - Images - Symposium - Field Trip 13

Creating peat dams at Dalchork blanket bog, Lairg © Julia Quin/SNH

Other restoration techniques are being trialled, such as peat hag re-profiling, re-vegetating bare peat and forest to original bog recovery. When peat is exposed it reacts with oxygen, causing it to degrade and releasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.

Soils are the main terrestrial store of carbon in Scotland and peaty soils are estimated to hold the equivalent of 140 years’ worth of Scotland’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a huge amount of carbon! We must do all we can to preserve this precious asset.

To celebrate International Bog Day 2017, local community groups ‘Our Portmoak’ and ‘Portmoak Community Woodland Group’ are hosting a ‘Tales of the peat bog’ event, in which a peat core sample will be taken to tell the history of the bog. For every metre of peat, 1,000 years of history can unfold.

More than 20% of Scotland is covered by peat – covering some 2 million hectares, which is almost exactly the same size as Wales! In a global context, Scotland holds 13% of the world’s blanket bog, with the Flow Country and the Lewis peatlands probably representing the largest contiguous areas globally. By protecting and restoring this precious asset now we are planning for our future.


Did you know? The Peatland Action Team is based all around Scotland; from Shetland to Sutherland, Argyll to the Hebrides, and Deeside to the Dumfries. We’ll be attending a number of agricultural shows and game fairs over the summer, which we’ll be promoting via @SNH_Tweets.


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