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Local peatland restoration project aids fight against climate change

5th August 2020

A £1.5m restoration project in Yorkshire has provided valuable protection for the local peatland and its ability to combat climate change. The development spans 1,414 hectares, equivalent to 1,724 football pitches.

The project in Middlesmoor, Upper Nidderdale was undertaken in collaboration between the landowners and Yorkshire Peat Partnership, an organisation founded under Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority to achieve the restoration of upland peatlands. Healthy peatlands store carbon, instead of releasing it as carbon dioxide, and can help in moderating climate change.

Ben Ramsden, co-owner of Middlesmoor estate, says: “This project has been ongoing for over five years. It’s been an extraordinary undertaking so we’re thrilled to see its successful completion. Our moors are essentially wall-to-wall deep peat and the work to re-wet has made a marked difference to the hill.

“It’s a fantastic example of what can be achieved through collaboration. Our thanks go to Yorkshire Peat Partnership for their brilliant work, to Yorkshire Water for their expertise concerning water quality and flooding, as well as the graziers and the local grouse shoot.”

The estate, which have been managed for generations for both grouse shooting and upland sheep grazing, was experiencing significant erosion. The consequences of this can be substantial and include harmful peat erosion. Yorkshire Peat Partnership estimates that North Yorkshire contains over 86,000 hectares of blanket bog, the majority of which is losing carbon, with restoration work underway on approximately half of it.

When peat soils dry out or are bare, they can get washed into the water supply, colouring it in the process. Once the peat combines with chlorine added in the water treatment plants to remove the colour, carcinogenic compounds are formed, which can be incredibly costly to remove. Projects, such as the one at Middlesmoor, therefore aim to combat the problem at the top of the hill.

Conservefor and Dinsdale Moorland Specialists, both rural conservation contractors, were appointed by Yorkshire Peat Partnership to work on the project. Techniques employed included extensive ‘grip’ blocking, whereby 46.1 km of channels historically cut into the peat to improve agricultural productivity are blocked up again to retain water on the moor. Also utilised was Sphagnum moss introduction, a process of revegetation wherein a Sphagnum moss layer is re-established to provide the peat with long-term stability and re-start the carbon sequestering process.

The operation was an extensive one, at one point involving approximately 7,000 bags of heather brash being transported to the site by helicopter.

Dr Tim Thom, Peat Programme Manager at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, says: “Peatland restoration is a long-term process, but it is fantastic to be making progress on this important moor in Nidderdale. The excellent relationship and collaboration we have with the Middlesmoor Estate means we have every chance of restoring this peatland to beautiful, squelching blanket bog. We could not have done this without funding from Yorkshire Water, Natural England and Defra.”

Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association, says: “This is a great example of the impact that public money can have on public goods. From climate change, carbon storage and water quality to flood mitigation and increased biodiversity, peatland restoration has no shortage of benefits for us all.

“We’re immensely grateful for the hard work and dedication of everyone involved working together to restore this beautiful habitat and all of its wonderful nature for future generations to enjoy.”


Did You Know?

75% of Europe’s remaining upland heather moorland is found in the UK – but this area declined alarmingly over the latter part of the last century. The Moorland Association was set up in 1986 to coordinate the efforts of moorland owners and managers to halt this loss, particularly in England and Wales.

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