A pioneering project to restore one of the country’s most vital natural resources is set to provide a valuable environmental legacy.Landowners and land managers in the north east of Scotland are working with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) to restore peatland areas as part of wider collaboration on moorland management.

SNH funding has allowed extensive work to be carried on three estates: Glenmullie on the Glenlivet Estate near Tomintoul, Edinglassie Estate near Huntly and at Mar Estate near Braemar.

Scottish peatlands are an important natural asset. Restoring and conserving them is part of the Government’s programme to meet its climate change and biodiversity obligations. It is estimated that peatlands cover around 12% of the UK but more than four-fifths of this land has been subject to damage through historical drainage or peat extraction. Estates are keen to play their part in reversing that damage and helping Government to achieve its targets.

Malcolm Hay of Edinglassie Estate said: “This exciting project will not only leave an environmental legacy but will also serve as a demonstration of what can be achieved by estates working with partners.

“Restoring peatland does not have any short term economic benefit to an estate, but the long term value of the public benefits is immeasurable. We have undertaken the restoration not for commercial reasons but to repair damage from many decades ago. It is good stewardship and estates want to maximise the public benefits that they can provide, with SNH providing invaluable advice and funding.”

Andrew McBride, Peatland Action Project Manager from SNH is tasked with spending the £6.7 million allocated from the Green Stimulus Package for peatland restoration and management. Andrew added: “The work carried out so far by Peatland Action in collaboration with Scottish estates and CNPA has been outstanding and this has been replicated across Scotland. Peatland Action Officers are available throughout the country to provide expert advice and assistance to anyone interested in a peatland project.

Andrew Wells, Head of Countryside Management for The Crown Estate which owns Glenlivet said: “The Crown Estate has worked in partnership with the CNPA, SNH and our local sporting tenant on this project. Peatlands and moorlands make a major contribution to our landscape and define the wild character of much of northern and western Scotland, including Glenlivet Estate.

“We are delighted that the Glenmullie moorland can be used to demonstrate modern peatland restoration practices, which have been developed to address specific issues associated with peat erosion and historic moorland management in the Cairngorms.”

Within the Cairngorms National Park, estates have commended the help and advice they received from Stephen Corcoran, Peatland Action Restoration Officer who coordinated the projects at Glenmullie and Mar with whom they had an excellent working relationship throughout the project.

Hamish Trench from CNPA said: “There is a good enthusiasm among land managers in the National Park to contribute to peatland restoration targets and it’s great to see innovative work being carried out on this scale.

“The collaboration also involved the skilled contractors, Barker and Bland, who specialise in bare peat restoration. Despite the restoration involving movement of peat and vegetation, they are able to restore sites in such a way that it can hardly be seen where they were working a few months later.”

Tim Baynes, Director of the Scottish Moorland Group, commented: “The peatland restoration work on these three estates is an example of what can be achieved through collaboration and there is an opportunity for other estates now to obtain funding under SRDP and make looking after peatlands part of the estate business.

“We look forward to continuing to work closely with SNH and the CNPA on future collaboration which will help to protect and promote this important national asset.”

ENDS

Pictures of Glenmullie/Glenlivet peat restoration work (Credit Stephen Corcoran, Peatland Action Restoration Officer, Cairngorms National Park Authority) & Malcolm Hay of Edinglassie Estate

For further information please contact Ramsay Smith or Rachel Woodford at Media House on 0141 220 6040 or email: ramsay@mediahouse.co.uk / rachel@mediahouse.co.uk

Notes to Editor

The Scottish Moorland Group

The Scottish Moorland Group, which is part of Scottish Land & Estates, provides specialist input on a wide range of issues related to moorland, from grouse management to carbon/peatland restoration. It uses practical knowledge from people on the ground to inform Scottish Land & Estates’ policy at a national level and passes information back down to a network of regional groups of moorland owners and managers. It also provides the link with wider stakeholder groups such as the Moorland Forum and maintains a strong link with the Moorland Association in England.

To find out more about The Scottish Moorland Group visit www.scottishlandandestates.co.uk

Project information

Edinglassie Estate

Owner Malcolm Hay is primarily a sheep farmer but also manages the estate for grouse and pheasant shooting, roe stalking , trout and salmon fishing. Peatland restoration work began in the autumn of 2014 and involved blocking up grips (ditches) on an area of moorland above the Markie Water which had been drained between the wars. These grips erode over time, washing peat into the rivers and releasing carbon back into the atmosphere. Grip blocking is also directly beneficial to salmon spawning in the headwaters of the River Deveron because it improves water quality and fish survival. The project has also restored a large area of bare and eroding peat where it had been cut over by Dufftown distilleries up to the 1950’s. Peat cutting exposes vertical banks of bare peat which are then eroded by wind and rain, releasing carbon back into the atmosphere and detracting from the landscape. The restoration process levels out and revegetates the eroding bare peat areas, and enables the natural peat forming process to start again. Restoration has the added benefit of controlling flooding, because the vegetation acts as a sponge and delays run-off into the rivers. Also, the biodiversity on restored peatlands is hugely greater than on bare peat.

Glenmullie, Glenlivet Estate

At 213 hectares, this is the largest of the three estate restoration sites, lying at 590 metres on a south facing slope overlooking Tomintoul. The project involved blocking up 9.9 km of drains by making small dams at regular intervals, which enables the water to collect and peat forming sphagnum mosses to grow again behind the dams. A further 8.7 km of natural peat hags and gullies were reprofiled and re-vegetated – this is a natural process but results in erosion of peat and loss of stored carbon in just the same way as artificial drainage and cutting. Innovative techniques were developed during the project to revegetate large areas of flat bare peat by laying down a layer of sphagnum-rich mulch, for which the correct weather conditions are vital. Lastly, the project involved removal and spot treatment of naturally regenerating conifers which were encroaching onto the hill, and which in time would cause the peatland to dry out.

Mar Estate, Braemar

This project also involved reprofiling over 7 km of gullies and peat hags and revegetating aresa of bare peat. This was the most logistically difficult of the three sites due to its high elevation and relative inaccessibility. On all three sites, a large part of the skill of the contractors is being able to maximise the amount of work achieved in small windows of opportunity to get onto site in the right weather and soil conditions.

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