Recently, up in the North of Scotland based at RSPB Forsinard Flows nature reserve, a team of young volunteers have been working hard to educate people on the importance of peatlands and inspire them to see the beauty in the incredible landscape.  

 

RSPB Forsinard Flows is an incredible reserve found in the beautiful, vast Flow Country in Caithness and Sutherland, Scotland. The primary habitat here is peatland, carbon-rich wetlands which make up over 10% of the UKs terrestrial area! At Forsinard, our peatland is blanket bog, a globally rare habitat which forms in upland areas over thousands of years. Peatland forms through the gradual accumulation of partially decomposed plant and animal matter, it is through this process that carbon becomes trapped in peat.

A volunteer holding a long pole which is drilled into the ground.

Peat Probing: Each metre of peat can take up to 1,000 years to form and the peat here can be up to 10m deep!

 Peatland provides us with vitally important ecosystem services, they store carbon, meaning that as global carbon emissions rise, peatlands are a key tool in removing excess carbon dioxide from the air. In the UK, peatlands store more carbon than all of our forests put together! They also play a role in regulating water flow and quality. Peatlands in good condition minimise the risks of flooding or drought when in good condition and in Scotland, most drinking water is filtered through peatland, the healthier the peatlands, the higher quality the water!

Sphagnum moss.

A spongey hummock of sphagnum mosses.

 The bog provides a home for a wide and impressive range of species! Many of the species here are specially adapted, such as the carnivorous Sundew which is often found alongside bog pools. Invertebrates, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds can all be found out on the bog too even if you only catch a glimpse of them as they scurry, crawl or fly away! The plant and fungi species found here are equally special, sphagnum mosses, which are key to the formation of peat, provide an array of beautiful shades of greens whilst bog asphodel and orchids pop up in bursts of yellow and purple!

A sundew plant with red sticky tentacles.

A carnivorous oblong-leaved sundew Drosera intermedia.

 Unfortunately, over 80% of peatland in Scotland is degraded, primarily due to drainage, planting of forestry and peat extraction. It is essential we try and protect what is left of our pristine bog and restore what can be saved.

 It is for all these reasons that we have come together to form a youth group, to save our bogs and educate others on why they should care about the bog too! We’re all volunteers at Forsinard Flows, some of us are residential volunteers and some are local. We’ve bonded over our love of nature and all things boggy and have since decided to call ourselves the Bog Babes!

 Two volunteers holding a small sapling tree out on the bog.      

Two of the team members getting involved with some of the native tree planting. 

Two volunteers with midge nets over their faces.

Team members fighting off the local midges and clegs out on the bog.

Day to day we are all involved with the practical work on the nature reserve from peat probing and native tree planting, to bird surveys, hydrological surveys and regen control. Its great that we can get involved in so many aspects of work on a nature reserve, especially that we can see first hand the restoration work taking place. As the Bog Babes we have set up social media pages to try and spread the word, we post about all things peatlands as well as about life up in the North! We’re also working alongside RSPB Scotland to try and elevate peatlands to a higher political agenda and lobby the government to give them more protection, especially in the run up to COP26 in November. We want to engage with the local community who have their own connections to and stories about the peatlands, and learn about what this special place means to them.

An orange and black speckled butterfly on a thistle.

A fritillary butterfly sitting peacefully on a thistle.

 

You can give the Bog Babes a follow on either Instagram (@Bog.Babes) or on TikTok (@Bog_Babes) to see what they're up to! You can also go for a walk with Milly, one of the Bog Babes, in this video on our YouTube channel!

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