Compared to many other ecosystems our understanding of peatlands is in its infancy. Coordinated scientific research into peatland issues is an effective way to increase our knowledge of their importance.
National peat depth and carbon storage project
Peat soils are our most important land store or organic carbon. Natural England recently estimated that England’s peatlands store around 584 million tonnes of carbon, but this was based on limited data. This joint project with Natural England and input from the wider community aims to improve this estimate. You can find out more on the project page.
Tracks on blanket peat
Following on from our best practice work on the development of moorland tracks, we are jointly funding and coordinating a scientific experiment to test the effects of new designs of track materials across blanket peat. A group made up of the Moorland Association, Natural England and the AONB Partnership is steering the scientific work of the research team from the University of Leeds. You can find out more on the project page.
UK Peatland Code
The Peatland Code is the voluntary standard for peatland restoration rpject sin the Uk that want to be sponsored on the basis of their carbon benefits. It is a mechanism by which businesses can help fund peatland restoration projects.
We have been working with the IUCN UK Peatland Programme and the Crichton Carbon Centre to test the Peatland Code Proxy Method. This method uses surface condition and vegetation composition to estimate either carbon intake or carbon loss from a site.
We are now looking for businesses to engage with the Peatland Code to increase investment into this important habitat.
For more information please contact Paul Leadbitter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other active research projects
Five research projects have been completed on a variety of issues associated with moorland grip-blocking and biodiversity on blanket bog habitats. The final reports from these projects are available to download from our completed research page.
Building on this successful first funding round, we are now supporting a further six research projects which are investigating peatland issues as they relate to the North Pennines AONB. Each of the projects aims to yield results that are of practical benefit and inform decisions about land management and restoration efforts.
The views and conclusions expressed in the publications and reports are those of the the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the AONB Partnership.
How much peat is being lost from bare and eroding areas?
Dr Richard Grayson and Prof Joe Holden from the University of Leeds are using the novel technique of ground-based laser scanning (LiDAR) to measure accurately the loss of material from eroding peat surfaces. The results are published in Geomorphology:-
Grayson, R., Holden, J., Jones, R. R., Carle, J. A. and Lloyd, A. R. (2012) Improving particulate carbon loss estimates in eroding peatlands through the use of terrestrial laser scanning. Geomorphology, 179, 240–248.
Do our restoration techniques reduce erosion rates and sediment loss?
Dr Jeff Warburton and Ed Baynes from Durham University are undertaking a range of measurements alongside one of our bare peat restoration projects.
What are the effects of grazing intensity on peatland carbon balances?
Dr Fred Worrall and Dr Gareth Clay from Durham University are carrying out experiments to determine how the level of grazing affects the amount of carbon stored by peatlands. The results of their experiments and modelling studies are published in Science of the Total Environment and Geoderma:-
Worrall, F. and Clay, G. D. (2012) The impact of sheep grazing on the carbon balance of a peatland. Science of The Total Environment, 438, 426-434.
Clay, G. D. and Worrall, F. (2013) The response of CO2 fluxes from a peat soil to variation in simulated sheep trampling. Geoderma, 197-198, 59-66.
How is the carbon budget of a managed moorland affected by drain-blocking?
We are contributing to Magnus Kelly’s PhD project (CEH Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh). Magnus is measuring carbon dioxide and methane fluxes before and after drains are blocked as part of a moorland restoration programme.
How can novel remote sensing imagery be used to map vegetation and land-use?
Mr Mark Kincey and colleagues from the University of Birmingham are investigating how new remote sensing data can be used to map vegetation types and different land-uses across large areas without the need for intensive ground-based surveys.
Peatland hydrology – a literature review
We sponsored a review of peatland hydrology which formed a part of the IUCN UK Peatland Programme‘s Commission of Inquiry on Peatlands. The review was lead by Dr Jillian Labadz of Nottingham Trent University.
Peatlands play a key role in water resource management, storing a significant proportion of global freshwater resources and maintaining water quality. The Review defines peatland hydrology, analysing status and trends, and examines drivers of change in peatland hydrology including climate, pollution, land use and management. The Review Team looked at the impacts of drainage, examined the benefits and disbenefits of drain blocking and best practice in this activity. Practical tools for monitoring and assessment were also assessed. Finally, the Review also examined projections of future climate and land use impacts on UK peatlands, and the interaction between management and policy options with the other review topics in relation to hydrology.
A summary and the full draft scientific review can be downloaded from the IUCN UK Peatland Programme’s website.
A crucial aspect of the project is monitoring how blanket bog responds to restoration work.
There is more information on our monitoring pages.