Peat carbon storage in Snowdonia

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The emphasis in Snowdonia is on restoring peat bogs which help capture carbon, reduce flooding and promote biodiversity.

The latest project will an area of blanket bog restored in Rhyd-ddu.

Tell us about the scheme

  • 33 hectares of raised mire and blanket bog are being restored
  • work began in November 2012 and is due for completion in spring 2013
  • local school children have been involved in cutting 12km of ditches in preparation for the arrival of contractors
  • it was a collaborative project between Snowdonia National Park Authority, the Countryside Council for Wales and a private landowner
  • once restored the site will be lightly grazed with cattle and sheep under an agri-environment scheme

Why is it being introduced?

The peat bog had been damaged by past practices such as intensive drainage and repeated burning. Despite this the peat body remains intacts and key species required for peat growth, such as sphagnum or peat moss, can still be found but its water and plant life needs to be restored.

The project is helping to educate local school children about the importance of ecosystems and their impact on the biodiversity of our countryside. It demonstrates the contribution that such areas of peat bog make to a range of ecosystem services including water quality, flood alleviation, carbon sequestration and biodiversity.

More peat bog restoration work in Snowdonia

Back in 2003, Snowdonia National Park embarked on a wide-ranging project to conserve and enhance 4,293 hectares of land in the park with the aim of:

  • promoting biodiversity
  • restoring landscapes to their natural state
  • preserving the cultural heritage of the region

One aspect of the £5.5m Rhaglen Tir Eryri scheme involved restoring 10 hectares of peat bogs to their natural 'boggy' state.

This simple-sounding process has far-reaching consequences.

Restoring the upland 'blanket bog' by ridding it of connifers has helped encourage biodiversity and offset the effects of climate change by re-establishing the peat as an effective carbon store.

Restoration of Trawscoed blanket bog

Snowdonia's blanket peat bogs account for 30 per cent of Wales' total, so work on restoring a section of these has a major impact on the country's ability to capture and store carbon in the way nature intended.

It also has an impact on flood run-off - peat bogs can soak up heavy rains which otherwise flood local rivers.

  1. A 10ha area in the east of Snowdonia National Park called Trawscoed, near Bala, was identified for restoration work.
  2. It was one of 4,923ha of so-called 'Natura2000' sites of special scientific interest and had been covered with connifer plantations for many years.
  3. In March 2006 work started on removing the spruce trees that had long dried out the 'blanket bog' there - a type of upland bog area - and stifled biodiversity with its light-blocking tree cover.
  4. The project was completed by January 2007 has resulted in the 're-wetting' of the blanket bog. In other words, the bog is once more boggy, rather than bone dry as it had been when sheltered by a forest of connifers.
  5. This has allowed bog mosses to thrive once more, keeping the peat below them wet and so helping it to be an effective 'carbon store' once more, as well as helping to contain river run-off contributes to flooding problems for low-lying areas of the park.

How did they do it?

Three gangs of 10 contractors worked on the privately-owned land from Mar 2006 to January 2007 (in the winter months only) to cut the connifers.

This had to be done by hand because of difficult access to the site, and to avoid damaging the sensitive habitats with heavy forestry machinery.

Contractors then laid the felled spruce cuttings in 'grips' - channels that had previously been cut in the peat bog to drain it for agricultural use.

By laying brash (foliage) in the grips, the dried-out soil was given a chance to become 're-wetted', as water collected and allowed traditional bog mosses to redevelop.

What are the results so far?

It will take many more years to restore the land fully, but already heather (Calluna vulgaris), hare's tail cotton grass (Eriophorum vaginatum) and Sphagnum mosses (such as Sphagnum capillifolium) have been re-established on the site.

More information on peat bogs and climate change