The Flows (Bringing LIFE Back to the Bogs)

Introduction

The Flow Country is the common name for the vast peatlands bogs of Caithness and Sutherland – mainland Scotland’s most northern counties. Peat has been forming here for thousands of years and reaches, in places, up to five metres in depth. As well as storing over 400 million tonnes of carbon, this area is a stronghold for a wide variety of wildlife, such as otters, water voles, red deer, mountain hares, hen harriers, waders and waterfowl. After remaining largely untouched for millennia, the Flow Country has undergone a massive change in land use over the last 30 years. In the 1980s, vast areas of peatland habitats were destroyed or damaged through drainage and planting of commercial conifer plantations, despite having been naturally treeless for over 4,000 years. The unfortunate result was huge damage to the habitat and the disappearance of much of the special wildlife. Damage to the habitat also meant that instead of the peat bogs actively sequestering carbon from the atmosphere the peat is continuously degraded and emits carbon to the atmosphere.

Description

The Flow Country holds over 10% of the UK’s blanket bog, and almost 5% of the world’s resource, covering over 400,000 ha. Due to changes in land use over the years, we have lost or damaged much of this habitat. Together with partners, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is working to restore the Flow Country to its original state.

Project Aims

By tackling issues at a landscape scale, the current management strategy aims to cover the full ecological function of the peatlands and resolve different land-use pressures. For example, by identifying areas where trees could be planted, as well as areas for removal, it should be possible to create a sustainable forestry future in the area. This is a shared strategy across land managers, crofters, foresters and conservationists; working together for restoration.

Restoration Delivered

Practical restoration work has included blocking drains across 15,600 ha of blanket bog, (over 18,000 dams installed), and removing trees from 2,300 ha of former blanket bog. These activities have raised the water tables in the drained peatland and provided the conditions for bog mosses and other vegetation to recover. This prevents the loss of carbon to the atmosphere from the peat and allows the creation of new peat – turning the habitat back into a sink for carbon. In addition, restoring the bog habitat has attracted more wading birds like golden plovers, dunlins and greenshanks.

Site Activity

In 1988, following a major campaign led by the RSPB in Scotland and the Nature Conservancy Council, a network of SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) was established to protect the Flow Country. This was followed in 1992 with the launch of a Peatland Management Scheme, funded by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), which involved making direct payments to land-owners and occupiers to support maintenance activities in this network of areas. In 2001, a partnership of RSPB, SNH, the Forestry Commission and Plantlife began a £2.8 million project, funded by the European LIFE programme, to bring conservationists and foresters together to restore damaged blanket bog at a landscape scale. The Scottish Government has also provided funds for peatland research and restoration in the Flow Country. The RSPB Forsinard Flows reserve was established in 1995 and lies in the heart of the Flow Country. Run by locally-based staff, the reserve is emerging as a major centre for research on peatland ecology, hydrology, carbon and restoration, in collaboration with many research institutes. Bog habitat condition is subject to extensive monitoring, including vegetation deer indices, birds and water tables. In addition to the research, Forsinard Flows attracts over 4,000 visitors each year, who contribute £190,000 to the local economy.

{"zoom":13,"lat":58.3365823,"lon":-3.8924013,"markers":{"0":{"lat":58.357425339,"lon":-3.897207814}}}

Project Name: The Flows (Bringing LIFE Back to the Bogs)

Organisation / Lead partner: RSPB

Location: Forsinard, Sutherland, Scotland

Approximate area covered: 400000 ha

Conservation Status: Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Area (SPA), Nature Reserve (NR)

Predominately: Upland

Peat Habitats: Blanket bog

Project Type: Restoration, Management

Year Project Began: 1995

Peatland Pavilion concept
Peatland Pavilion will feature at UN Climate Change Conference (COP26)The Peatland Pavilion will provide a hub for highlighting the important role that peatlands play…
Bord na mona
United Nations recognizes major Irish Peatland Restoration initiativeDianna Kopansky of the United Nations Environment Programme has recognised the initiative led by…
GPI logo
Open call! Your opportunity to participate as a Contributing Author for the GPI’s upcoming Global Peatlands AssessmentThe Global Peatlands Initiative are currently looking for Contributing Authors (CAs) to participate…
Peatlands Are...
Reflections from Bog Day 2021This year's Bog Day was celebrated around the world on Sunday 25th July - bringing peatlands to the…
Power Station image
UK invests over £30m in large-scale greenhouse gas removalWe are delighted to support this project which will investigate the management of peatlands to…
IUCN UK PP Conf 21
Conference 2021 Registration OpenSign up for this year's IUCN UK Peatland Programme conference ‘Peatlands in Partnership: a road to…
Butterburn flow
Nature for Climate Peatland Grant SchemeInformation about the scheme to restore English peatlands and how to apply for funding.
IUCN UK PP Conference 2021
IUCN UK PP Conference 2021 - Save the dateSave the Dates: 13th - 16th September 2021
Minister Poots pictured with Jennifer Fulton, CEO of Ulster Wildlife
Northern Ireland Peatland Strategy ConsultationEnvironment Minister, Edwin Poots has launched a public consultation on the draft Northern Ireland…
Virtual Peatland Pavilion
Peatland Pavilion proposal for COP26 programmeOpportunity to contribute to and participate in proposing and shaping the first ever dedicated…
Diggers on Bwlch y Groes
Wales’ first carbon-funded peatland restoration project is complete!A peatland restoration project at Bwlch y Groes on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park is the…
England launches Peat Action Plan
England launches Peat Action PlanThe IUCN UK Peatland Programme welcomes the long-awaited publication of the England Peat Action…