Major peatland restoration project near Dumfries completed

18 December 2023

A major project to restore an area of badly damaged peatland near Dumfries has been successfully completed.

Around 90 hectares of lowland raised bog has now been restored at NatureScot’s Kirkconnell Flow Nature Reserve, thanks to funding from Peatland ACTION. 

Kirkconnell Flow is an important example of an ancient raised bog. With peat laid down at a rate of 1mm a year, the raised dome at the reserve has a peat depth ranging between six and 10 metres. 

However, the area was badly damaged in the Victorian period through peat cutting and the installation of a network of drains and was later planted with trees in the 20th century.

NatureScot first began restoration work in 2000 by removing trees from the bog and blocking surface drains. The condition of the peatland improved, but monitoring showed water was still being lost through cracks and pipes below the surface, some as deep as two metres down.

Water retention is critical for the spaghnum mosses that form the building blocks of an active bog. The ongoing water loss meant that without intervention, Kirkconnell Flow’s peatlands would have continued to dry out and be exposed to further damage and loss.

Following Peatland ACTION funding in 2019, the NatureScot reserve team began work to create a network of watertight cells across the bog. Known as “bunds”, the walls of these cells are made from the peat itself. They prevent the escape of water through pipes, cracks and old tree root pathways, retaining it across the bog to help the sphagnum mosses grow.  

The third and final phase of the restoration work was completed in early December after four years of work, with signs of recovery visible already.

Suzanne McIntyre, NatureScot’s Nature Reserve Manager for South Scotland, said: “The recovery of the bog has been remarkable, not only for the spaghnum mosses, but for other species such as waders and dragonflies.

“The restoration work will still take a few years to fully embed, during which time the surface of the bog will remain delicate and in need of careful protection.

“However, all the recovery signs so far indicate that the bog at Kirkconnell Flow will be as we had hoped - sufficiently resilient to withstand the expected changes to the climate, and able to lay down peat and lock in carbon for years to come.” 

Barry Dunne, NatureScot Head of Peatland Operations, said: “Healthy peatlands play a vital part in tackling Scotland’s climate and biodiversity crises, as well as improving water quality, mitigating flooding and wildfires, and providing new rural green jobs.

“We are proud to say that since 2012 Peatland ACTION has so far funded nearly £800,000 of peatland restoration work in Dumfries and Galloway, with all the benefits for landowners, communities and local people that this entails. We are looking forward to working with other landowners and managers in the future to achieve even more.”