On-going monitoring of our peatlands is important and will help us to understand how these crucial habitats are changing.
Long term vegetation monitoring is used to track changes and inform our decisions on restoration sites across the North Pennines.
The aim of grip-blocking restoration work is to slow the rapid flow of water along drain channels and prevent further erosion of the peat. A longer term aspiration is for the former drains to revegetate and return to active blanket bog. The first plants to colonise the newly created pools are cotton grasses and Sphagnum bog mosses. These species are important for restoring the ability of these areas to form peat and store more carbon.
Our vegetation monitoring on grip blocking and bare peat sites is designed to help us understand more about the speed of recovery and the factors that help or hinder this progress. We are currently monitoring eleven sites across the AONB using fixed point quadrats. Some sites have been monitored since 2010 and we are seeing positive changes to the vegetationon both grip blocking and bare peat sites.
Water quality monitoring
We are increasingly focussing our efforts on restoring bare and eroding peat. Evidence from elsewhere in the country suggests that this work could yield improved water quality in streams and rivers draining these catchments. Working with Northumbrian Water Ltd and Durham University, we are monitoring the effects of our restoration work on downstream concentrations and fluxes of DOC and particulate organic carbon (POC). DOC and POC can be elevated in catchments where the peat is degraded and actively eroding and there are considerable benefits to reducing the levels at source.
To better understand the benefits of grip blocking on flood mitigation and carbon storage two sites were chosen in the AONB where monitoring equipment was installed and data collected. The team from Newcastle University developed the experimental design used to gather evidence on the effects of grip blocking on water colour, groundwater levels, runoff flow, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and sediment load at Geltsdale and Priorsdale. Newcastle University have now completed this phase of our monitoring work and the full report can be downloaded from the link below.