Restoring the Peatland of the Flow Country, Scotland

RSPB Scotland is part of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the UK nature conservation charity that exists to tackle the problems threatening our spectacular environment.

The Flow Country is a stunning blanket bog in northern Scotland. This globally rare habitat is home to a variety of wildlife, including golden eagles, hen harrier, otters, mountain hare, waders and waterfowl. It is the largest terrestrial carbon store in the UK, and is considered to be the largest single expanse of blanket bog in the world. However, conifer plantations from the 1970s and 80s are drying out the peat, causing carbon release into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change, and reducing habitat for wildlife.

RSPB Scotland is working with partners to restore areas of bog in the heart of the Flow Country and EOCA funding will transform 3.64ha of the Dyke plantation by:
– Using contractors to fell the trees during 2017, and staff and volunteers to block drains during 2018, thus raising the water table and allowing the bog to be restored naturally.
– Within 10-20 years, the area will become a world of amazing wildlife once more, a place to be inspired by peace and space, and an essential carbon store, helping to tackle climate change.

The Update

RSPB Scotland has now completed the three-stage process of peatland restoration planned at Dyke Plantation: timber has been felled by contractors, brash removed, and furrows and drains have now been blocked. Funds have also been used to purchase equipment to enable RSPB staff to undertake removal of any further regrowth to ensure the future success of the peatland restoration.

At present the site is described as being in a state of ‘shock’ due to the complete removal of the plantation woodland. However, over the coming years the site will begin to heal, the peat dams created will retain more and more water and the site will see the return of vital flora and fauna over the next 10-20 years; during which time carbon sequestration will also begin. As this happens birds of prey like merlin, hen harrier and short-eared owl will begin to hunt once more over the open moorland. Otters and water voles will move back into the new wetlands and teeming flocks of wading birds such as dunlin, greenshank and golden plover will be seen. As the peatland heals over time, the environment is restored to its natural balance and beauty.

This project has helped make good progress toward restoring some of the UK’s important peatland areas, working toward the IUCN’s aim of 2 million hectares of UK peatlands in good condition, under restoration or being sustainably managed by 2040.