Peatland ACTION case study: What's the connection between peat, wildlife and business?
Peatland ACTION case study: What's the connection between peat and Rottal Estate?
The answer lies in wildlife and business.
Rottal Estate, The Angus Glens
The project at Rottal Estate has begun to bring benefits not only for wildlife and the climate, but for the business too. Nesting curlew numbers are rising, while water quality is now better for the South Esk’s important populations of salmon and freshwater pearl mussels, and the performance of the Estate’s 450kW hydroscheme has increased.
Rottal Estate - Lochan Luie
The peatland restoration at Lochan Luie was the first phase of a programme of works planned for Rottal Estate spanning a number of years. The site is near the top of the River South Esk Special Area of Conservation (SAC), which is protected for its important populations of salmon and the rare freshwater pearl mussel. Rottal Estate’s key aim in carrying out the work was to bring back the biodiversity lost on this historically drained blanket bog by raising the water table and revegetating the areas of bare peat, improving the water quality downstream at the same time.
In doing so they have also seen significant improvements to the performance of their 450kW hydro-electric scheme, and potential reductions in the risks of grouse chick and livestock mortality through falling into the eroded gullies and drains. Combined with the potential for carbon credits created through the restoration, this has made good business sense as well as helping to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises.
Rottal Estate - On the road to restoration
In 2019 Rottal Estate’s owner, Dee Ward, worked directly with NatureScot Peatland ACTION project officer Colin Castle to develop and plan the project, and to apply for funding from Peatland ACTION.
The 30ha project site near Lochan Luie sits high above Glen Clova, one of the Angus Glens. The Burn of Heughs runs through it, which is within the River South Esk SAC and part of that river catchment.
Stretching from 430m to 520m above sea level, work began at the top of the slope to reduce any potential damage from machines crossing newly restored areas of peatland. The site is 3.5km from the nearest public road, so access was via estate tracks that snake up into the hills.
Before and after re-profiling
A combination of 9 and 16 tonne diggers was used to block and re-profile the moorland grips that had been cut across the site. From the middle section and up towards the northern part of site the focus was on re-profiling and turfing the eroding gully systems and exposed peat banks. Turf bunds have been put in to help hold back sediment, slow water flow and create shallow pools to encourage vegetation growth and stop the erosion process.
At the north end, timber sediment dams were installed to slow water and create pools. Within these pools and existing wetter areas of peat, clumps of locally gathered sphagnum were hand planted to help kick start the re-vegetation process.
In all 450 peat dams were installed, blocking 4km of ditches. Two kilometres of peat hags and 5km of gullies were also reprofiled, changing the landscape from a network of dry, dark brown fissures to a growing blanket of sphagnum dotted with pools within months.
Rottal Estate - Challenges
Landowner Dee Ward explained that the biggest barrier to completing the work could have been cost, but Peatland ACTION funding meant that this was not an issue.
High deer numbers could also have been a challenge, but a combination of timely culls and new deer fencing prior to the application ensured that numbers were manageable and wouldn’t threaten the success of the project. The Estate had already noticed improvements in the vegetation and peatland habitats on the hill as a result of this work.
Rottal Estate - Benefits
Rottal Estate’s main aim in restoring its peatlands is to increase the biodiversity of the area. Importantly the salmon and pearl mussels in the River South Esk SAC will benefit from clearer water—the result of rainfall now being filtered through the peat rather than rushing off the hill down the gullies, eroding the peat and turning it brown as it goes.
The Estate has seen increases in the numbers of nesting curlew and black grouse as the result of the habitat improvements, a big win for biodiversity as both these iconic moorland species are in steep decline in many parts of the UK.
The slower water flow has also helped improve the performance of the Estate’s 450kW hydro-electric scheme, providing a more consistent flow by keeping water on the hill in times of drought.
And last but not least of course, the peatland is now on the road to recovery as a carbon sink, and will already be releasing less carbon into the atmosphere, helping to tackle the climate crisis.
Rottal Estate - Future plans
Rottal Estate is aiming to restore another 300ha over the next five years, with the first 60ha of this planned for early 2024. In addition to all the other benefits, the Estate will be validating the work here to enter the Peatland Code, helping to secure the future of this valuable peatland restoration work for many decades to come.
For further information, or to get involved with PeatlandACTION
We want to build on our restoration efforts to create a healthier peatland landscape for people and nature.
- We offer funding for suitable peatland restoration projects across Scotland;
- We offer, where appropriate, multi-year funding;
- We fund up to 100% of the capital costs;
- We fund much of the pre-application work, for example, peat depth surveys and feasibility studies.
- We have officers who can help design your project, offer advice on restoration management and assist you to complete your application and supporting information.
Peatland ACTION case studies: We demonstrate links between peat condition and: fisheries; grouse; carbon storage; wildlife; landscapes; human history; and so much more.
If you would like to contribute to the on-going work of Peatland ACTION please contact [email protected].
For further information: www.nature.scot/peatlandaction.