Peatland ecosystem services


Whole tree removal 12 year later june 2010We aim to learn how land use affects the main ecosystem services from afforested peatland (i.e. water supply, flood reduction, climate change reduction, wood production and wildlife habitats). We are comparing forestry with forest-to-bog restoration and creation of low-density peatland edge woodland.

Research objectives

For the three land uses:

  • Measure water yield, quality, and high and low flows
  • Measure carbon in drainage water and greenhouse gas exchange with the atmosphere
  • Measure the abundance of plants and animals dependent on peatland habitats
  • Study microbial processes in peat, relating land use to water and greenhouse gases
  • Express results in terms of the balance of ecosystem services


Project work gets underway in October 2016 with 3 related PhD studentships focused on how different ecosystem services are affected by peat land use. After these finish in 2020, Forest Research will continue monitoring through land use changes.


Russell Anderson 

Funders and partners

  • Core funding: Forestry Commission (FC)
  • PhD on water-based ecosystem services: FC Scotland, University of Leeds, FC, SEPA
  • PhD on gas-based ecosystem services: FC Scotland, University of Aberdeen, James Hutton Institute, FC
  • PhD on microbial processes in peat: FC Scotland,

Forestry Commission policy

Forestry policy relating to peatland habitats was set down in 2000. It encouraged only limited restoration because evidence of benefits was lacking. 

In 2014, supplementary guidance for Scotland stated a presumption to restore habitats in protected sites, those affecting connectivity of EU Habitats Directive Annex 1 habitats and those where deforestation would reduce net greenhouse gas emissions. Elsewhere, on sites insufficiently productive for tree growth to compensate for greenhouse gas losses from the soil, it recommends creating low-density, low-intensity, 'peatland edge woodland', which retains some woodland benefits but avoids a net carbon loss. 'Deciding future management options for afforested deep peatland' gives more information.

The results of this research project will inform future review of the policy.


Last updated: 17th October 2017