Enhancing Natural Capital by Restoring Peatlands
At Caledonian Climate when restoring an eroding peatland area, our two main aims are to 1) Enhance Biodiversity Net Gain to increase The Natural Capital value 2) Store and Sequester Carbon Dioxide to help tackle The Climate Crisis.
Natural Capital is the world's stock of natural assets that directly or indirectly underpins value to people. Biodiversity Net Gain means making measurable improvements for biodiversity by creating or enhancing habitats in association with development.
A ‘healthy’ or ‘restored’ Peatland ecosystem is capable of supporting a large variety of flora and fauna as well as having phenomenal carbon storing abilities. This is what makes the work we do so important, not only for enhancing native wildlife ecosystems but for storing the surplus carbon dioxide in our Earth’s atmosphere.
Environmental Scientist and Horticultural specialist Colin Morrison, speaks about the magic of flora and fauna within peatlands and their “bog building abilities.”
“Peatlands are remarkable places when you know what to look for. You may be familiar with heather, common cotton grass and sphagnum moss. When you look a little further, there is so much more to be found in these glorious ecosystems; bog asphodel, heath bedstraw, bog myrtle and lousewort. There over 30 species of mosses that make up much of the bog building tools that create an intricate peatland system.”
Mosses and lichens are the foundations for a healthy bog system; they hold water in pool systems stopping surface run off, they bind the soil together with the roots creating areas for other species to succeed on top. The water itself can store carbon while the mosses act as a ‘blanket’ keeping the deep peat soil covered, preventing oxidisation.
“Then there are the standout stars of these habitats; Drosera (sundew) does a great job of repelling the midges, Menyanthes (bog bean) lives in pools showing off its beautiful flowers and Dactylorhiza maculata (heath spotted orchid) with exotic colours attracting birds, bees and butterflies. Gymnadenia Borealis (heath fragrant orchid) and Dactylorhiza purpurella (marsh orchids) – a sure sign summer is on the way.”
An eroding peatland is barren, with exposed soils that are uninhabitable and often only support a few species that have adapted to these conditions. A healthy peatland is vibrant in colour and texture which attracts insects, birds, mammals, and predators, this starts to enrich the food chain creating a dense network of biodiversity.
“Even in the depths of winter, a bog system is full of colour - if you take the time to wander. The deep reds, yellows and greens of Sphagnum=moss (can be breath taking as they rest against the edges of pools, and the subtle mounds of Racomitrium lanuginosum (woolly fringe moss) provide a haven for field and water voles.”
Erosion begins when the surface of peatland is broken or dried out. This derives from anthropogenic land practises such as overgrazing, artificial draining or trampling, it is then exaggerated by repetition of these sources plus the inevitable wind and rain. The species that rely on a healthy peatland system have suffered as a result, over the past 100 years.
Luckily, mankind has now realised the importance of these sensitive ecosystems and their key role in reversing biodiversity loss and storing CO₂. With this knowledge, we are now restoring these eroding peatlands at pace, to reverse what is already lost whilst encouraging new land management practises to reduce impacts on these environments to avoid this problem re-occurring in the future.
“Water voles are found beside bodies of water. They dig their burrows on the banks, whilst feeding on grasses and herbs that grow there. Water voles prefer sites with steep or stepped bank profiles where they can burrow, to create nest chambers above the water table, making them a safe haven from predators.” Water Vole numbers are currently threatened in Scotland, so creating habitats for these mammals to multiply is so important. At Caledonian Climate, we have found a direct relationship between restoring a peatland area followed by an increase in water vole numbers. This is just one measurement used to calculate of the biodiversity net gain achieved by restoring eroding peatlands in Scotland.
So next time you are “out in the hill”, don’t avoid these beautiful bog systems, take the time to explore, to stop and to breath. They are places of refuge not just for all the species that live and indeed thrive there, but for us too – you haven’t lived until you’ve been emersed by the smells, the colour, the sounds and the “feel” of a blanket bog. Magic indeed!!!”
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About Caledonian Climate
Working responsibly with the custodians of Scotland’s beautiful countryside, Caledonian Climate is committed to tackling the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.
To achieve this, we talk to forward-thinking businesses who want to fulfil their ambitions for carbon emission reductions through high-quality carbon credits with multiple co-benefits. We then partner them with landholders in the Scottish Highlands, maximising the ecological value and sustainability of their estates.
Building on our significant experience, and guided by a distinguished Advisory Board, Caledonian Climate is delivering the benchmark for long-term restoration of Scotland's degraded peatlands, locking away the carbon for good.
Our work also enhances biodiversity, improves water quality, boosts local economies and creates a compelling story for all of our partners to share.