Peatland ACTION - Peat depth and peat condition survey guidance and recording form guidance
Peat depth and peatland condition data allows us to measure the amount of stored peat and estimate the carbon storage and greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland.
A peat depth and peatland condition survey is needed before restoration work starts.
Request a peat depth and peatland condition survey
In most cases peat depth and peatland condition survey data must be submitted along with your Peatland ACTION funding application. The Peatland ACTION Project Team will arrange for surveys to be undertaken at no cost to you.
Can I undertake my own peat depth survey?
Peat depth surveys, undertaken, and supplied by applicants prior to a funding offer are done at the applicants own cost and are not refundable through Peatland ACTION funding. If peat depth surveys form part of your funding offer you must follow the guidance below and record your data using the recording form supplied. The guidance document sets out what you need to do before you start your survey and what you need to record in the field. The form captures the data in a consistent format to allow us to use the data effectively.
For further advice contact us at [email protected]
Can I use the data from my peatland restoration feasibility assessment instead?
If you have previously had a peatland restoration feasibility assessment carried out on your site then it may be possible to use the data provided within this. Get in touch with us so that we can check the data is in the right format and that it meets our guidance.
Peat depth and peatland condition survey guidance
Why are we asking for a peat depth and peatland condition survey?
The primary funding purpose of the Peatland Action Programme is to reduce carbon release to the atmosphere and ensure carbon is stored in peatlands.
Collecting data on peat depth will allow a quantification of the stored peat resource where restoration is taking place. This in turn enables a partial estimation of the carbon stored on the site.
Collecting information on the peatland condition will facilitate an estimation of the greenhouse gas emissions from the peatland.
What will we do with the information?
The peat depth and peatland condition survey will be made publicly available to further our understanding of the total peat and carbon resource and greenhouse gas fluxes.
Forms and guidance
All the forms and guidance documents referenced below can be found on the Peatland ACTION – Peat depth and survey guidance webpage.
You will need;
- A peat probe with sufficient length of rods to measure the full depth of the peat. NatureScot may be able to loan peat probes upon request, but they are also available to buy on the internet as ‘peat probes’. Bamboo canes are unsuitable as they will snap and could cause injury;
- A handheld GPS device. This is used to record the sampling locations;
- Tape measure;
- Gloves with latex palm;
- Pre-printed field forms (Excel recording template);
- Peatland Condition Assessment guide;
- Weather writer;
- Digital camera.
Before you start
- The survey should cover the area(s) within the overall project area (including any previously restored areas) identified as containing ‘carbon and peatland Classes 1-5’ using the Carbon and peatland map 2016 and associated guidance;
- Mark 100 m x 100 m grid on a map and aerial photograph;
- Check that there are no overhead cables or underground utilities that run across the peatland.
- Plan your route to enable the crossing of ditches and other obstacles;
- Measure the length of an individual rod to speed up the measuring process;
- You may wish to mark graduations on the rods with tape;
- Carry out a risk assessment. HSE offers useful guidance on working around overhead lines.
Important Note: Do not probe peat near or under electricity powers lines and beware of very wet ground.
Peat depth can be measured relatively easily using a narrow rod pushed into the peat at regular intervals across the site. The depth to which the rod sinks reflects the local peat depth.
The survey is completed on an approximate 100 m by 100 m grid basis, which provides information on peat depth variability and identifies areas where areas of deeper peat are present. The peat survey should cover the whole area that is restored. Where precise probe locations are considered unrepresentative of the adjacent surrounding habitat, they should be better relocated and geo-referenced to ensure more representative samples.
At each intersection of the 100 m x 100 m grid, record the position by noting the grid reference using the GPS. Record the peatland condition category (at each grid intersection) using the Peatland Condition Assessment guidance. Take 1 representative photograph of each sample area (please also record metadata for each photograph including 10-figure grid reference, image file name, description and date). Push the first rod into the peat. Initially this may be difficult to do particularly if the peat is dry and vegetation thick. Add further rods as necessary. When the rod comes to a halt or you feel additional resistance or note a change in progress of the rods, mark or note the surface level on the rod and remove the rods, unscrewing each section as it is removed. This reduces the risk of bending the rods.
Points to note
- The exact position of the probing point is more important than sticking to the 100 m x 100 m grid positions. Ground conditions or access may restrict access to the exact grid point. An accurate national grid reference of the actual probing point is our main aim.
- Select a probing location that is representative of the immediate area. Tussocks and hummocks raise the surface level above the actual peat level. The peat surface near ditches is often lower due to erosion and degradation of the peat.
- Peat deposits are a mantle which sits above rock, gravel or clays. When the rod reaches the mineral substrate below it will either stop suddenly, or get more increasingly more difficult to push in. When extracting the final rod check the tip – if it has sand or clay at the point, this indicates it has reached the substrate below the peat.
- Tree roots, wood and trees buried in the moss may affect the depth at which the probe stops. Where the peat depth unexpectedly appears shallower it is advisable to probe a metre or so away from the original probe point.
- Peat probes should never be used near power lines or buried utilities, and you should not walk around with an extended peat probe.
- Take care when pulling out the probe, particularly if the depth is greater than three metres and always attach the T- piece handle when pulling. Refer to HSE Manual lifting guidance and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Information that should be recorded on the survey
The following information must be provided on the peat depth and peatland condition survey Excel template.
- Information about the survey
- Data supplier organisation and contact
- NatureScot Grant number (50xxxx) or Peat depth survey code (PSxxx)
- Site name
- Date(s) of survey (e.g. 10/08/2019 to 11/08/2019)
- Total number of points surveyed
- General weather conditions at time of survey
- Model of GPS device and accuracy during the survey
For each peat depth sampling point, provide the following information in the peat depth and peatland condition survey Excel template. You can also submit the data in GIS shapefile format, provided that all of the attribute fields mirror those in the Excel template.
- Information about each probe point
- Grid reference (in British National Grid) or 6-8 figure eastings and northings, in British National Grid.
- Date of sampling (day/month/year) Please also include time of sampling when using electronic recording system
- Peat depth (in cm, to the nearest centimetre)*
- Sample point identification reference (e.g. A1, A2…)
- Peatland condition category
- Photographs taken at each probe point**
- Comment or observation (if appropriate)
* This level of detail is required due to the various thresholds (30 cm, 50 cm) for categorising depth.
** The photographs are useful for long term monitoring purposes. A photo should be taken at each probe point for sites <30 ha. For sites larger than 30 ha, a representative sample of photos from 10% of the probe points will suffice.
The Peatland Condition Assessment Guide includes descriptions and photographs of four categories, two of which have sub-categories. And, as we do a lot of restoration work on previously afforested sites, we are asking that you record forested, or previously afforested sites, as such. The categories are: Actively eroding: hagg / gully; Actively eroding: flat bare; Drained: Artificial; Drained: Hagg / gully; Modified; Forested / Previously forested; and Near natural.
Maps of areas surveyed and peat depth and peatland condition can also be produced. Please include appropriate copyright to take into account the basemaps used.
All the forms and guidance documents can be found on the project webpage.
Please submit peat depth survey data electronically to: [email protected] using our recording templates.
How to I assess the condition of my peatland?
Our Peatland Condition Assessment guide will help you to assess the condition of your peatland, which is the starting point for informing any changes in management or restoration required to improve condition.
Disclaimer: Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has changed its name to NatureScot as of the 24th August 2020.
At the time of publishing, this document may still refer to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and include the original branding. It may also contain broken links to the old domain.
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