Our peatland restoration project needs your vote!

We’ve got some great news here at RSPB Scotland Forsinard Flows nature reserve; a project to restore part of the intricate blanket bog at the reserve is in the running to receive funding from the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA). The final decision is decided by a public vote on the EOCA website - whichever project has the most votes in each category will receive funding.

 Red-throated divers and a suite of other EU protected species breed in this special habitat

While all of the projects shortlisted in the Nature category are incredibly worthwhile we are (of course!) backing ours and ask if you could take a moment to do the same. Here’s why a vote for “Restoring the Peatland of the Flow Country, Scotland” from you is vital to the work we do here, and in the fight against climate change.

The Flow Country is an awe inspiring place. You can see for miles across the vast landscape, made up of blanket bog, a globally rare habitat that’s home to many special plants and animals, including lichens and mosses, peatland waders, diving beetles and otters. But it’s not just a stunning place to look at - what’s happening beneath our feet makes it even more important.

 The Flow Country is a beautiful mosaic of lochs and pools and is home to some amazing plants and wildlife

The peatland here is the UK’s largest terrestrial carbon store. It holds about 400 million tonnes of carbon, double the amount of all the UK’s forests put together, and is vitally important to help tackle climate change. Its significance is underlined by the fact that UNESCO is currently considering awarding World Heritage Site status to the Flow Country.

I feel incredible lucky to work in this amazing landscape. In the summer birds such as red-throated divers, golden plovers and greenshanks nest here. Such a remote location is perfect for merlins, short-eared owls and golden eagles hunting for food, and a beautiful yet carnivorous plant called sundew can be found around the pools that dot the peatland.

 Taking peat depth measurements at Forsinard Flows

However, non-native forestry plantations that were planted across the Flow Country in the 1970s and 1980s caused a lot of damage, with the peat in these areas drying out and eroding away. As a result it began releasing carbon into the atmosphere, and was also unable to support the wildlife and plants that relied on it. Fortunately, the days of trying to grow conifers on the blanket bog are largely gone but RSPB Scotland, along with others, is still trying to undo the damage. So far over 2,500 hectares of Flow Country forestry have been restored to blanket bog, though there’s still a lot of work to be done.

The project in the running for EOCA funding is focused on one area - the Dyke plantation - and if successful in the vote will be part of a programme of restoration under the Peatlands Partnership’s Flows to the Future project. Should we secure funding we’ll be able to clear 3.64 hectares of the trees here, removing the timber and recreating the open peatland environment. Drains in the ground can then be blocked which will bring the water table back up to its original level. Blanket bog is an amazing habitat - once this work is done it will begin to form again naturally over time. We’ll monitor the restoration to see how the wildlife and plants species are benefitting from it, as well as calculating the carbon saving that comes from the restored peatland.

 Aerial view of the Dyke Plantation, showing some of the felled and standing non-native forestry. With your help we can restore it back to active peatland again!

Another major part of our work in the Flow Country is engaging with the public so they can learn about this amazing landscape. By working with local communities, schools, colleges and universities we hope to inspire the next generation about the international importance of the Flow Country both as a carbon store and a fantastic place for nature.

This project is part of a long term process. While the emissions of carbon into the atmosphere from the damaged peatland should be reduced, if not halted, by the restoration work it will take between 10 and 20 years for it to become a net carbon sink again so acting now is crucial.

The Flow Country is a truly special place but there’s still a long way to go to return all of it back to good health and become an even bigger carbon store which will benefit us as we tackle the impact of climate change. Please do help us take an important step towards this by casting your vote for our project - the EOCA vote opened today, and will close at 12 noon on Thursday 23rd March.

Head over the EOCA website here to vote.

 Round-leaved sundew and sphagnum moss...the little things are just as important

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