What are lowland raised bogs?
Lowland raised bogs are peatlands that have developed in areas such as estuaries and valleys or other topographic depressions. Poor drainage leads to the area becoming water-logged. Peat is then formed because the lack of oxygen slows down the decomposition of plant materials. The continued build up of peat lifts the surface above the surrounding area to create a distinctive dome shape - the 'raised bog'.
How much raised bog habitat is there in Britain?
There are 13,000 hectares of lowland raised bog that is of conservation interest. About 3,400 hectares is on land managed by the Forestry Commission. Most of this is in Scotland, mainly in the south west in the Solway and Galloway areas, and in the north east in Moray and Aberdeenshire.
What species live on raised bog?
Because they are raised up from the surrounding countryside, raised bogs only get water from rainfall. This means that they are very acid in nature and only support specialist plants that can survive in conditions of very low fertility.
The most common plants are the sphagnum mosses that form the building blocks of the peat. Some plants, such as the great sundew, make up for the lack of nutrients in the bog by eating insects (insectivorous). Other specialist bog plants are bog rosemary and cranberry.
As with the plants, many of the insects that live on raised bog are also specialists and some are quite rare in Britain. These include the large heath butterfly, bush cricket and mire pill beetle.
Threats to lowland raised bogs
The biggest single threat to lowland raised bogs is large-scale peat extraction. But there are many other factors that can lead to the degradation - and eventual disappearance- of lowland raised bogs. These include agricultural improvements, local and regional drainage, tree planting, overgrazing, building developments and atmospheric pollution.
How we manage our woods
Lowland raised bogs are valuable habitats to conserve because they support rare plants and animals and a great deal of historical information can be locked up in the peat. We are working with partners including English Nature, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Wildlife Trusts to share resources and carry out restoration projects.
Actions that can be taken to conserve lowland raised bogs include: limiting the amount of peat extraction and using peat alternatives such a coir and chipped bark; blocking ditches and re-wetting areas that have been drained to allow the peat building process to restart and specialist plant and insects to spread on to the new peat areas; and removing any trees planted on the bogs.