Fersiwn Gymraeg ar gael yma.
The Migneint, located within Snowdonia National Park, is one of the largest areas of peatland in Wales. Covering up to 77 square miles, it’s a large and internationally important expanse of upland heath and blanket bog.
What is a blanket bog?
Blanket bogs are areas of peatland where there is a high level of rainfall whilst the level of evaporation is low allowing peat to grow. However, we haven’t treated this fragile habitat with the respect it deserves. Over the course of the years, vast areas have been drained to make way for farming or forestry. This has dried out the peat, which accelerates the process of decay. When peat decays, the carbon stored in it is released back into the atmosphere.
Parts of the Migneint have been damaged in this way. It has led to deep erosion gullies forming and has dried the bog, which means that the rare wildlife that depend on this habitat go elsewhere to look for breeding grounds. However, over the past few years, an exciting project has been underway to restore damaged peat.
Over the past four years, we have worked with National Trust Cymru and the Ritchie family, the Trust’s tenants at Blaen y Coed farm on the Migneint. The project was part-funded by the Wales Peatland Sustainable Management which is run by the Snowdonia National Park Authority.
The project, which started in 2017, has restored areas of damaged and degraded blanket bog. Most of the work was done in challengingly wet conditions and was carried out by the Ritchie family themselves, who’ve used their own farm machinery to block the erosion ditches and create mini-dams to hold back the water in the peat. With the Ritchie family taking ownership for most of the work, it’s proof that it’s possible to combine wildlife conservation with the everyday task of running a successful farm business.
Since the work has been completed, the site has transformed into a much healthier and vibrant habitat. Pools are reforming once again and bog-plants like sphagnum mosses, cotton grasses and sundews are flourishing once again. This has attracted other wildlife here too and over the summer, it was a busy site with insects like dragonflies, damselflies and beetles making the most of the improved conditions.
But most excitingly of all, over the summer, golden plovers and curlews nested at this site and successfully reared chicks. Wet peatland is the perfect habitat for these upland birds. They like to nest in open ground with a mix of different plants, and thanks to the restoration work, Blaen y Coed provided an ideal location for them to breed. What made it event more exciting was that this was the first successful breeding at the site since the 1990’s!
Why we must protect peat
The successes of Blaen y Coed gives us the perfect example of why we must do all we can to protect and restore peat. Where we once had a degraded bog, we now have a landscape that not only provides a home for wildlife, but it also provides crucial environmental services to our society. Across the UK, peat bogs hold 400 million tonnes of carbon, which is double the amount stored by all the forests in the UK. Peat bogs are also valuable when it comes to flood protection. Ultimately a peat bog acts as a sponge and can absorb the large amounts of rain water we get here in Wales. The water is released in a controlled manner to the sea meaning that probability of serious flooding is reduced. Meanwhile, in the summer, peat bogs are a crucial water source as it provides us with much needed water and acts as water filtering system.
Add your voice
We’ve recently launched a new campaign called #ForPeatsSake We’re asking people to pledge to not use peat. Peat is used widely as a garden compost and soil conditioner. Gardeners across the UK use 70% of horticultural peat with two thirds of the peat sold in the UK imported from the rest of Europe. This means that peat users are contributing to both destroying peatlands across the continent and the UK is effectively exporting its carbon footprint.
We also want to send a clear signal to our governments that banning the sale of peat is a popular policy. So, click here the pledge your support and encourage your elected representatives to ask them to support banning the sale of peat!
Image 1: Building mini-dams (Martin Clift)
Image 2: Curlew
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