Bid to bring back more blanket bogs

Bid to bring back more blanket bogs

17 January 2008

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Llandudno Junction, UK — Conservationists are to launch a charm offensive aimed at farmers and landowners as they attempt to restore upland bogs to curb climate change.

Work is already under way in the five-year LIFE blanket bog project but so far work has focused on the RSPB Lake Vyrnwy Reserve on land owned by Severn Trent Water.

This year the project will be extended to Forestry Commission Wales land in the Migneint Special Area of Conservation near Bala.

Project leaders also want to involve private landowners and large estates but admit they must first convince lamb producers of the need to block drainage ditches.

Farmers fear their sheep could drown in the restored bogs and the land will become less productive.

LIFE advisory officer Mike Morris said: “When you mention ditch blocking to farmers, their eyes tend to widen in horror.

“They are businessmen and we accept they will not want to do anything that will damage their businesses.

“However, the areas already restored don’t appear to be any less productive.

“And the evidence so far indicates that sheep losses fall when ditches are blocked as the dams provide “bridges”.

The £2.5m project also involves removing Sitka spruce, clearing rhododendron, re-seeding with heather, grazing with Welsh mountain ponies and creating fire breaks.

Blanket bogs – a type of peat bog – absorb and retain vast quantities of carbon and so, if in good condition, could slow down climate change.

However they are under threat from forestry, over-grazing, erosion, peat extraction, recreation and drier summers. As the peat decomposes, greenhouse gases are released.

As a result bogs in England and Wales currently release 381,000 tonnes of carbon per year, equivalent to emissions from 230,000 cars.

This winter another 29km of drains – known as grips – are being blocked, 35 ponds created on Forestry Commission land and 100Ha of dry heath are being cut.

To create bales for dams, heather is mown in 2m-wide strips either side of the drain. The heather is baled, placed in the ditch and covered with peat and surface vegetation.

Longer-term, the project hopes to buy land on the Migneint to conserve specially-adapted plants that thrive on the waterlogged ground, including sphagnum moss, insect-eating sundews and bog rosemary.

Project manager Jared Wilson said: “The LIFE project is a fantastic opportunity to protect a valuable habitat and the animals which depend upon it.

“The potential benefits to tackling climate change make this even more important.”

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