Forestry Commission logo

Upland bog

What are upland bogs?

Upland bogs are also known as peat bogs (peatlands, mires, peat moss or peat flows).

In Britain, they are a feature of cool, humid regions such as the north west of England, the central and north east lowlands of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There are also remnants of upland bogs in Somerset, south Yorkshire and Fenland.

What types of upland bogs are there?

There are 2 types, blanket bog and raised bog.

Blanket bog

Most widespread in the wetter west and north of Britain, but it also occurs in eastern upland areas. Blanket bog accumulates because of the very slow rate at which plant material decomposes in areas that are waterlogged. It can cloak whole landscapes and is not confined to areas of poor drainage. Studies suggest that blanket peat began developing 5000 - 6000 years ago.

Raised bog

Develop through peat formation on bare surfaces. As the peat accumulates, the influence of the ground water reduces so that the bog becomes irrigated exclusively by rainfall. This type of ecosystem is known as 'ombrotrophic' or rain-fed bog

How much upland bog habitat is there in Britain?

The Forestry Commission manages a total area of 124,000 hectares of blanket bog, which is mostly found in Scotland. Upland blanket bogs, like lowland raised bogs, are now protected through their designation as Special Areas for Conservation.

What species live on upland bogs?

Upland raised bog is habitat to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Notable plant species include Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), Dwarf birch (Betula nana), Bilberry and Cowberry (Vaccinium spp), Sundews (Drosera spp) and the sphagnum mosses (Sphagnum spp).

Red deer range over much of the upland peatlands. Upland peatland margins are also important for wildcat. Pool systems are invaluable for otters.

Peatlands are important breeding grounds for waders such as the golden plover, dunlin and greenshank. Other birds, such as the common scoter, curlew, snipe and redshank are also present. Raptors include merlin, hen harrier, short-eared owl and golden eagles.

Raised bogs support rare and local invertebrates, such as the large heath butterfly (Coenonympha tullia), bog bush cricket (Metrioptera brachyptera) and mire pill beetle (Curimopsisi nigrita).

Peat accumulation also preserves a unique and irreplaceable record of plant and animal remains from which it is possible to race historical patterns of vegetation and climate change, and human land use.

Threats to upland bog

Peat bog areas have been used for peat cutting for fuel for centuries. Following cutting, the turfs are left to dry, often in wigwam-like structures before being taken home for storage and burning. Peat cutting is now in dramatic decline as other fuels, such as oil and gas, have become much more convenient.
Today, the main threat to upland raised bogs comes from drainage, heavy grazing by deer and sheep, burning and peat extraction.

How we manage our woods

All peat bog areas that are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are covered by special management plans. These plans outline the steps to be taken to protect and enhance the habitat. Operations include drain blocking, reducing grazing pressure and removing trees where they could affect the hydrology of the peatland.

We are working with partners including the Deer Commission for Scotland, European Union LIFE and Regional Development Funds, Millennium Forest for Scotland Trust, Plantlife, RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage, and with local enterprise companies, local communities and neighbouring estates to collect information about the condition of the habitat and to restore it to a favourable status. 

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.