Stuck on the bog - New research could be a ’game changer’ for peatland restoration in Yorkshire’s wildest locations

New Research could revolutionise peatland restoration thanks to a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) funded by UKRI through Innovate UK and additional funding secured from Vp plc say Yorkshire Peat Partnership and University of Manchester.

Funding from UKRI through Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, and Vp plc, will enable research to find a solution to one of peatland restoration’s most intractable problems: how to re-establish bog vegetation on areas of bare peat at altitude and facing into the harshest weather.

Yorkshire Peat Partnership has already worked on restoring 36,500 ha of Yorkshire’s damaged peatlands over the last 11 years. Now the focus is on dealing with the most exposed, challenging, high altitude peatlands that are hard to restore.

Dr Tim Thom, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Peat Programme Manager, said:

"Our restoration work on these areas is scoured away by the wind. It can require multiple visits - and therefore increased costs - to restore them. This research could be a massive breakthrough, not just for us, but for the whole peatland community."

Restoration techniques on these highly exposed, bare areas - spreading a mixture of cut heather, grasses and moss rich with seed (known as brash) - have resulted in a 50% success rate, requiring up to three visits and costing as much as 28,000 per hectare for success.

Dr Thom adds; "It’s vital to get these areas revegetated to knit the restored areas together, leaving no ingress for the weather to start once more eroding the peat. Results from this research could be a game changer for peatland restoration in these vulnerable locations."

Professor Martin Evans, Vice Dean and Head of School School of Environment, Education and Development, said:

"Restored bogs store carbon, mitigate flood risk and support biodiversity...this is a fantastic project which brings together the academic expertise of University of Manchester and innovative understanding of peatland restoration from Yorkshire Peat Partnership and Salix to develop new ways of restoring the degraded upland bogs of the UK."

Yorkshire Peat Partnership will work with academics from the School of Environment, Education and Development at the University of Manchester and erosion control specialists, Salix via the KTP project, to find a medium that will bind the friable surface of eroding peat and promote seedling establishment despite the punishing weather on these sites. As well as reducing the overall costs of restoration, the project will look to create an outlet and potential market for products that were once considered waste (such as cut bracken) or have a limited market with a very low return (such as wool). Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) aim to help businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK knowledge base. The University of Manchester is at the top of Innovate UK’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) ranking, as it becomes partner of choice for innovation in businesses.

Sin (surname and title) of Salix, said:

"We’re excited and proud to be part of a project that could revolutionise peatland restoration. If we’re successful, the sector will benefit from more sustainable, cost-effective products and techniques. This will help to further a culture that considers the benefits of a full life-cycle analysis of materials and methods, making peatland restoration as efficient and eco-friendly as it can possibly be."

This research has been made possible by funding from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, and Vp plc.

Fred Pilkington, Environmental Programme Manager at Vp plc, said:

"Upon speaking with Dr Thom, it was clear that this project fit perfectly with Vp’s appetite to support UK-based conservation projects focussed on the triple win of nature, humanity and climate. This experimental peat restoration is sorely needed to discover the most appropriate restoration methods for highly degraded peatlands not only across Yorkshire but worldwide. I have been following the development of this project for a while now so I am very excited the remaining funding has been secured and that our employees and their families will have the opportunity to get involved and enhance their connection with the natural world. We are proud to support the Yorkshire Peat Partnership as part of a Group-wide sustainability commitment strategy to minimise our carbon emissions and environmental impact."

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