Peatland in pristine or good condition provides a range of critical ecosystem services, including biodiversity, carbon storage and sequestration, regulation of stream base flows, water runoff and downstream flood peaks and nutrient regulation and retention. Peatlands are also sinks and sources of several natural greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4).
Peatlands that are in poor condition may be drying and oxidising, which will cause them to emit carbon, whereas peatland in good condition will be peat forming, and therefore sequestering carbon.
More than 75% of deep peat soils in Wales are covered in semi-natural vegetation. Most of this is upland blanket bog, with significant amounts of fen and flush and, locally, lowland raised bog. These are all UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority habitats with UK and Welsh targets for habitat management and restoration.
A joint, collaborative project between FCW, CCW, EAW and Welsh Government was commissioned and this has been delivered by Forest Research.
This report, “A strategic assessment of the afforested peat resource in Wales, and the biodiversity, greenhouse gas flux and hydrological implications of various management approaches for targeting peatland restoration”:
- assesses the distribution of the Welsh peatlands, based on best available spatial information on the extent and location of peat soil and peatlands.
- delivers an improved distribution map of the upland blanket peat and deep peat soils resource at the highest resolution.
- includes an improved map of the distribution of afforested deep peats in Wales and ownership of forested land in Wales.
- provides an overview of the likely impacts of peat forming factors and afforested peatland restoration and management on the biodiversity, hydrology and greenhouse gas (GHG) benefits.
- develops national and field based assessment schemes based on rule based criteria, proxy factors and thresholds for the assessment of afforested peatland in Wales viable for restoration.
- carries out a national GIS assessment identifying potential restoration areas in Wales.
- tests the field-based assessment by ground truthing a number of sites in Wales.
- provides relative costs of afforested peat restoration
This report helps identify the opportunities for restoration of afforested deep peat and prioritise restoration efforts. A summary of the peat report is also available here.
In order to deliver restoration of deep peat where it is viable and will be most beneficial we have developed some Guidance on the management of deep peat on the Welsh Government Woodland Estate and there is also a Field Assessment Tool for use by practitioners assessing afforested sites on deep peat.