Peatland ACTION case study: What's the connection between peat and grouse?
Benefits for the birds! Balancing commercial and conservation objectives can sometimes be challenging but on this particular grouse moorland multiple benefits have successfully been achieved.
Between 2014-16 Peatland ACTION supported the restoration of the peatlands at Hope’s Estate in East Lothian.
Peatland ACTION Project Officer Ewan Campbell and the Estate’s Head Keeper, Ian Elliot recently reflected on the benefits of the restoration project thus far.
What was the issue?
Hope’s estate includes one of the largest and least disturbed areas of upland blanket bog and heather moorland in East Lothian. The upland is managed for grouse and part of it is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest which had been falling into ‘unfavourable condition’ due to man-made ditches and historical muirburn causing the bog to dry out. In addition the rapid flow of water through the ditches was contributing to gully erosion which, in turn, resulted in more sediment/discoloured water reaching the Drinking Water Protected Areas downstream and, from there, into the water treatment works. Scottish Water were closely involved in the project.
What was done to remedy / restore the peat?
Ewan explains “The bog needed to be ‘rewetted’ to allow the key moss building plant, Sphagnum moss, to flourish. During 2014/15 and 2015/16 specialist contractors worked on the site for 20 days over winter to avoid any conflict with breeding birds and the open season for grouse shooting. Ditch damming, peat ‘hag’ (eroding banks of peat) reprofiling and installation of sediment traps downstream, as well as stabilisation work on the gullies was undertaken".
Benefits of restoration at this site?
Ewan goes on to say "Revisiting the site two years later it is remarkable how successful the restoration has been – there’s a marked increase in the amount of water retained in the bog, leading to the development of important bog mosses. The bog surface is also less flammable as a result and, consequently, more resilient to damage from accidental fire. This restoration work is helping to reduce peat erosion impacts downstream and should lead to an overall reduction in carbon losses from the site, as well as helping to future-proof these areas from climate change and exacerbated weathering effects”.
Climate change, carbon and peatlands
As the upper layer of the peat begins to recover and Sphagnum mosses begin to re-colonise and dominate once more, this reduces the release of greenhouse gases from the peatland and results in carbon storage.
The Estate’s Head Keeper Ian Elliot concludes: “The grouse moor is a much tidier looking place now and where there was once scars of eroding peat they are no longer visible. The peatland restoration work has benefited the grouse by providing an all year round water source even during sustained periods of drought. There is also likely to have been an increase in invertebrates across the moor, an important food resource for chicks and adult birds. In addition there is now a diverse mix of habitats present across the moor and I’ve noticed the peat dams provide good vantage points for grouse”.
Hope’s Estate is a member of the Wildlife Estate’s Scotland (WES) Initiative which aims to introduce an “objective and transparent system encouraging best practice and demonstrating how game and wildlife management undertaken by Scottish landowners, in line with the principles of biodiversity conservation, can deliver multiple benefits for society and rural communities”. This project clearly demonstrates how peatland restoration efforts can help support grouse management objectives while helping to deliver a multitude of other benefits.
Special thanks to Robbie Douglas-Miller (landowner); Ian Elliot (Head Keeper) and Scottish Water for their assistance with this project.
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