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Yorkshire Peat Partnership’s high-tech peat team

Date: 13 Feb 2018

This year, Yorkshire Peat Partnership completed its first phase of restoration (2008-2017), working on over 27,000ha of North Yorkshire’s 70,000ha of upland peatlands. The next phase is now underway with new projects – funded by Yorkshire Water, the new Countryside Stewardship Scheme, Natural England and the Environment Agency – being surveyed and mapped.

We also managed to secure €6.6million from the EU LIFE-fund, slipping a bid under the wire before we Brexit! The Pennine PeatLIFE project is working with partners in the North Pennines and Forest of Bowland. It will deliver peatland restoration along the Pennines from Skipton to Hexham, east into Nidderdale and west into the Forest of Bowland.  The project began in July and we have recruited two YWT project officers as part of the wider team.

Peatland restoration seems like a pretty low-tech affair, using diggers to block drainage channels (over 1,500km so far) or reprofile eroding gullies & hags (1,300km); tractors to cut and spread brash; hand-planting cotton-grass plugs (over 12,000).  In fact, the work is backed up by research we do in partnership with a number of northern Universities and our own skilled team of specialists. We use cutting-edge technology that helps to plan, monitor, research and improve the way we do our restoration work.

Mark Brown – GIS & Remote Sensing Officer

Mark is our Geographical Information System (GIS) and aerial photography analysis specialist.  One of his main roles is flying our Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) – drone to most of us – to give us super-high resolution 3D images of our restoration sites in different wavelengths from infra-red to visible light.  Mark uses these images to help map bare peat, the shape of gullies, direction of water flow and patterns in vegetation.  We are even hoping to be able to measure the growth of individual Sphagnum clumps to reveal how much carbon is being sequestered by the peat bogs.  We are so impressed with UAV technology that we are buying two more and training up more pilots.


Chris Osborne – Earth Observation Officer

Not content with aerial photography from our UAVs, we have recently decided to head into orbit, employing Chris Osborne to research the use of satellite images to map our peatland sites.  The advantage of satellite images is that they cover larger areas of land and are repeated on a regular basis.  This means we can look at how our peatlands change over time both before and after restoration work has taken place, and possibly comparing seasons.  Chris is currently using LANDSAT and SENTINEL satellites to see how the water content of peatlands and the area of bare peat changes after restoration, which may help us assess changes in downstream flood-risk.

Lizzie Slingsby – Research Officer

Coming back down to Earth, we also need to understand in fine detail which of our restoration methods (e.g. Sphagnum reintroduction) work better than others.  Lizzie is Yorkshire Peat Partnership’s first directly employed PhD researcher (in partnership with the University of Manchester) looking into which of our Sphagnum reintroduction methods work best.  She is looking at how quickly they grow but also how they impact on greenhouse gases, water quality and downstream flood risk. This involves regular monitoring of a set of experimental plots on Masham moor using high-tech equipment such as automated weather stations, spectrophotometers and our most expensive piece of equipment so far: the Ultra-portable Greenhouse Gas Analyser (UGGA).