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New Technique Used to Restore North Pennines Peatlands

Over 150 bags full of sponge-like bog mosses have been spread in the North Pennines in a bid to restore some of the area’s eroding peatland.

The North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership is one of the first conservation organisations in the country to trial the innovative process, which involves Sphagnum moss being placed on alongside water channels on bare peat. The Sphagnum will soak up excess water, hold the water during the drier months and also grow and expand to cover nearby areas of bare peat.

Spreading Sphagnum

Spreading Sphagnum

The project, which began last year, will see more than 18 hectares of bare peat – about the size of nine football pitches – become re-vegetated and eventually grow into a piece of fully functioning blanket bog.

For this stage of the project the brightly-coloured Sphagnum moss was collected from a donor site in Northumberland and transported to its new home at Warcop Training Area, Cumbria.

The North Pennines has the largest expanse of peatland in England, and over 3000ha of that needs restoring.

Alistair Lockett, Conservation Assistant at the North Pennines AONB Partnership, who collected and redistributed the Sphagnum, said: “Healthy peatlands are massively important to the environment. To some it seems like a fairly unappealing landscape and I don’t think that many people understand the role it plays in all our lives. We always say the North Pennines peatland is our rainforest. – maybe not as lush but just as significant.

“Healthy peatlands lock up carbon, reduces water colour, reduces flooding and even conserves archaeology.”

As well as being a result of scientific progress, the project also owes its success to partnership working.

The AONB Partnership has worked closely with both the Forestry Commission, which owns the land at the donor site, and the Ministry of Defence, which owns the land at Warcop Training Area.

Alistair said: “Partnership working is crucial to the success of projects like this. We work closely with several organisations and landowners and without their co-operation and input we wouldn’t be able to restore the peatlands of the North Pennines.”

The project is due to be completed in 2023 but there are already signs that using Sphagnum moss combined with our restoration techniques are increasing and promoting the growth of new bog vegetation.

Alistair added: “We have a lot to do but we’ve already made good progress and I’m confident that this fairly new approach to peatland restoration will do the job.”

North Pennines

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