Assessing the feasibility of restoring peatland in Scotland
Pristine peatland environments are important ecosystems in Scotland and help to mitigate climate change impacts by sequestering carbon. However, when peatland degrades, it can lose its ecosystem value and release carbon into the atmosphere.
The relatively poor condition of most of Scotland’s two million hectares of peatland has led Scottish National Heritage to develop a project funded by the Scottish Government called Peatland ACTION. The project aims to target areas for restoration that will make the most significant difference. As a part of this work, the Black Mount Deer Management Group required a feasibility study of its land.
RSK was commissioned to undertake this study to identify areas in which peat restoration might be viable. The study area encompassed at least 17 individual estates and afforested areas managed by Forestry and Land Scotland: an area of 34,000 ha of the Scottish Highlands.
The study comprised a desk-based screening exercise of the area using multiple mapping resources and aerial photography to highlight potential sites for further investigation and to exclude infeasible areas.
Following the screening exercise, selective surveying was conducted to identify suitable areas for restoration. This included peat probing; a peatland condition assessment with photographic evidence; a baseline hydrological assessment; an assessment of the extent of erosional features and drainage characteristics; an assessment of the crop characteristics for potential marketable value estimates on afforested sites; and a targeted herbivore impact assessment.
RSK delivered a management report for the Black Mount Deer Management Group’s area that outlined the results of the desk-based screening and surveys, and included mapping of the restoration potential using GIS. This was followed by a discussion of the potential restoration sites ranked in order of priority with consideration of the required restoration techniques, the potential constraints and the indicative implementation costs. A summary of the identified opportunities was provided along with a suggested work programme to support any future funding applications.