Sustainable Management of Peatlands

Anglea Creevy and Roxane Andersen at Forsinard Peatland, located in Northern Scotland

Dr James Rowson from the Department of Geography has been conducting research into the carbon store services provided by peatland. Carbon stores are increasingly important for their potential to alter carbon levels in the atmosphere.  Careful management can enhance these stores to take up more carbon whilst poor management or exploitation may lead to some of this carbon ending up back in our atmosphere. 

Peatlands are some of the largest terrestrial carbon stores in the UK and indeed the world however most are severely degraded. The government has made a recommendation in their 25 year plan of ‘restoring vulnerable peatlands and ending peat use in horticultural products by 2030’ and restore 75% of our terrestrially protected sites.  This shows how important these sites are to the UK and why we must do everything we can to preserve them. 

Fens and Whixall Moss peatland, Shropshire

Recent work by Geography PhD student Angela Creevy shows that peatlands can be successfully restored in terms of carbon emissions after planted conifers have been removed but this process is likely to take 20 years and the soils do not recover Testate Amoeba – a top end soil microbial predator showing this restoration process is still incomplete even after all this time.

Vegetation surveying at Fens and Whixall Moss, Shropshire

Our research has also shown that methane – a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide – was strongly related to the vegetation of the recovering site. This work demonstrates that active management of a peatland sites is vitally important for the sustainable future of our country. 

Dr James Rowson has also been involved in a collaborative research monitoring and experiment project at the Cors Fochno peatland site, located north of Aberystwyth. This is one of the most intact lowland raised bogs in England and Wales. Established in 2010, the Cors Fochno experiment investigates peatland response to climate change, focusing on the combined impacts of drought and warming. Cors Fochno is the only experiment globally to include both long-term warming and active simulation of realistic summer drought by pumping.