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Winter peat depth surveys

By Taylor Wildlife, Feb 10 2020 03:57PM

After spending all summer surveying birds and butterflies, it can be nice to hang up the walking boots and gaitors for a while. Winter is primarily a time for writing reports, catching up with admin, and working on our CPD. However; it doesn't take long before we all start getting itchy feet...

Luckily for us, we get to break up the office work to go and carry out some peat depth surveys. Peat is a build-up of decaying vegetation that accumulates very slowly, at a rate of around 1 millimetre a year. When they are in good condition, peatlands act as carbon sinks; worldwide, peatlands store more carbon thatn all other vegetation types combined. In Scotland, peatlands store 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon - the equivalent of 140 years worth of greenhouse gas emissions. Regrettably, peatland habitats are often fragile, and are susceptible to degradation from human activities such as draining, muirburn, and over-grazing. Fortunately, this damage can be reversed. Peatland restoration may involve blocking drains and gullies to retain water within the peat, reprofiling peat haggs to allow vegetation to recolonise and stabilise peat banks, installing fencing to keep grazing animals away from the site, and refraining from burning within these areas.

Carrying out a peat depth survey is often one of the first steps towards restoring peatland. The survey involves recording the peatland condition and inserting rods into the peat at set intervals in order to measure the depth. Trying to find a time window when there's no snow on the ground in winter can be difficult in the highlands, so we have to be prepared to survey whenever there's a thaw. This can mean working in less than perfect conditions - after all, it's raining it can't be snowing! All we can do is make sure we bring plenty of warm layers and hot tea, make sure our waterproofs are in fact still waterproof line up a good podcast, and get going. After finishing the surveys we have the satisfaction of seeing the peat depth map produced by our data, popping our dried boots back in the cupboard, and enjoying being back in the warm office again.

In 2012, the Scottish Government funded a project called Peatland ACTION, which aims to restore damaged peatlands in Scotland. To find our if you may be eligible for funding to restore your peatlands, visit their website.

For peat depth surveys, peatland restoration surveys, habitat surveys or grazing impact surveys, contact us.

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